There is little use in showing children how to behave properly at soccer games if some adults then go and act like savages in front of six- and seven-year-olds. This is precisely what happened on March 15 in a neighborhood of León, where two men aged 29 and 27 began punching the referee, a 16-year-old whose family hails from the north of Africa. The young man sustained several injuries, the worst of them to one eye. The attackers showed up at the police station three days later and have been released pending trial for assault and battery.
And is that all? It should not be this way. Two adults who assault a juvenile in front of other minors at an under-eights game deserve a red card. They should not be allowed back on a sports field, at least at youth competitions. We can no longer shrug it off, even when such a sensible person as Vicente del Bosque, manager of the Spanish national team, tries to play the matter down by calling it “an isolated incident.” A year ago, a 27-year-old player beat up a 17-year-old referee so badly that the latter lost his spleen, this time in the Valencian town of Burjassot.
Children cannot be taught that anything goes, and that if they lose, it is due to an injustice
While it is true that there is no constant flow of such incidents, it is easy enough to find testimony from parents who are seeing bad manners become commonplace on the playing field, where their children are egged on by hot-headed individuals. The latent violence in many highly competitive matches is easier to understand if players are taught from an early age that this represents normal behavior. Something must be done to preserve some sporting spirit in them.
The passion that fills the stadiums and the players’ responsibility to their audiences of millions at major games are all very well. But let us start at the beginning: children cannot be taught that anything goes, and that if they lose, it is simply because of an injustice that justifies the beating up of the alleged guilty party. No matter how much soccer may be an outlet for the ardor of the multitudes, we must never be tolerant of the troublemakers.