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 “principles of conduct”.
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 football’s globally accepted fair play principle of returning the ball to the opposition in such circumstances.
But he didn’t break the rules.
Apart from his coach Mircea Lucescu, no one even thought about jumping to Adriano’s defence and UEFA also said he faced a disciplinary hearing to explain whether he really “followed his instincts”.
One may plausibly argue that Luiz Adriano’s act was morally deplorable, but was it really more unacceptable than Thierry Henry’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 Henry’s peers, including Sweden’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.
“I would have done the same thing as well,” Ibrahimovic told www.goal.com in an interview in February 2010 after he joined Henry at Barcelona from Inter Milan.
“It 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.”
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 referee’s failure to spot Henry’s wrongdoing contributed to Ireland not having a chance to play on the big stage in South Africa, Nordsjaelland’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.