After Luiz Adriano affair, do fair play and winning always go hand in hand?
Shakhtar Donetsk romped into the Champions League last 16 with a match to spare following their 5-2 win at Danish rivals Nordsjaelland, but only after their Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano scored a goal which outraged much of the football world as he broke what UEFA called â€śprinciples of conductâ€ť.
With the Ukrainian champions 1-0 down and chasing the win they needed to progress into the knockout stage of the competition, Luiz Adriano latched on to a ball which his team mate and compatriot Willian played in an attempt to pass it back to the opposition after the game was halted to treat a Nordsjaelland player for injury.
Luiz Adriano ran past his bewildered markers, who stood like statues, rounded the equally stunned goalkeeper and stroked the ball into an empty net to spark a chorus of jeers among the home fans.
By doing so, he broke footballâ€™s globally accepted fair play principle of returning the ball to the opposition in such circumstances.
But he didnâ€™t break the rules.
Apart from his coach Mircea Lucescu, no one even thought about jumping to Adrianoâ€™s defence and UEFA also said he faced a disciplinary hearing to explain whether he really â€śfollowed his instinctsâ€ť.
One may plausibly argue that Luiz Adrianoâ€™s act was morally deplorable, but was it really more unacceptable than Thierry Henryâ€™s violation of every principle and rule known to football, when he virtually carried the ball with both hands to help France score a vital goal which contributed to their qualification for the 2010 World Cup at the expense of Ireland?
Is it worse than diving to win a penalty kick, a sight we see almost every weekend at every level?
Several of Henryâ€™s peers, including Swedenâ€™s hailed striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, showed a lot of sympathy for the Frenchman and jumped to his defence after he blatantly broke the rules and got away with it.
â€śI would have done the same thing as well,â€ť Ibrahimovic told www.goal.com in an interview in February 2010 after he joined Henry at Barcelona from Inter Milan.
â€śIt can happen to me as well. If I was in the same situation I would probably do the same. I would do anything for my team. For my country to go through to the World Cup, to a European Championship or just playing a serious game. I would do everything to win.â€ť
With so much at stake in modern-day football, not least the financial rewards of advancing in the money-spinning Champions League or the World Cup, sportsmanship inevitably takes a back seat to the must of winning.
While the refereeâ€™s failure to spot Henryâ€™s wrongdoing contributed to Ireland not having a chance to play on the big stage in South Africa, Nordsjaellandâ€™s incensed players might consider that they should have stayed on their toes when Adriano took advantage of the situation and allegedly sacrificed his dignity to get a result.