In his last game the Boy gave away what I can only describe as, being a father, a rather dubious penalty. After the match I happened to see the referee in the bar and I decided to question him on his decision. In my defence I don’t usually seek out the boy’s referees but I knew the referee in question from work and I listened to his explanation of why he had given the penalty and he listened to why I thought he had got it wrong.
The whole conversation lasted less than five minutes before we embarked on more serious subjects, like what a prat Big Sam had been, but one thing that he said really made an impression on me. He asked me to thank the Boy for his politeness when he asked why he had been penalised. Listening to my friend I was shocked by some of the names he had been called, not only by players’ parents but also by the twelve and thirteen year olds he refereed.
At almost any youth match these days there is the type of parent who stands and bays from the side line, criticising the referee, the coach and the players, in a voice so loud that they can be heard on the other side of town. This type of behaviour not only ruins the enjoyment of other parents but also that of the children who are playing and more importantly it does have an effect on the children’s behaviours. In a child’s mind why is it so bad to mimic the foul and abusive language towards the referee that they hear on the side lines?
This disrespect for referees has been brought into the spotlight recently in New Zealand’s Stirling Sports Premiership because, just like watching your kids junior team, the spectators are right next to the action and the crowds are small enough that you can usually hear most of what is being said. Incidents like linesmen being called blind c**** and a female referee being told a decision she had given was only a foul in the women’s game!
Both of the above comments were made by players on the pitch and the players involved should have been dealt with severely by New Zealand football but as spectators we have a responsibility too.
I am not asking you to not get angry when a decision goes against your team just suggesting when you do shout out your disbelief to be mindful of the language you use. Football, as any fan will tell you, is all about passion and passion can be a good thing but it can also be dangerous and so often it is not left at the sporting ground when the match is finished but leads to irrational hatreds.
Football should also be something which generations can share together, a time for parent and child to bond in despair as they watch their team lose again or to celebrate together as their favourite players lifts the cup. And it is because of these bonds being forged that it can be also be a time when a child’s behaviours are formed. So the next time you want to shout obscenities at the referee, as he is conned by a dive from an opposing player please, be mindful of the child that may be sitting next to you, your restraint just may help them out in later life.