Crime and punishment

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’m sure I’m not the only one who raised an eyebrow at today’s story about a soccer player being banned from the game for five years … for spitting at a referee.

I didn’t witness the incident and I don’t know anything about the player involved, 28-year-old Detroy Smith, a midfield player with St. David’s but really, FIVE YEARS? For an amateur player? For spitting? Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, one of the best professional players on the planet, only got 10 games for the far more heinous crime of biting an opponent during a game!

I’m certainly not condoning Smith’s anti-social behaviour but surely the punishment is way out of perspective. I understand that the Bermuda FA want to stamp out this sort of behaviour (Bermuda referees get enough abuse as it is) but surely such an excessive ban is not only sending the wrong message but could potentially have an unintentional knock-on effect socially.

This sort of draconian and heavy-handed reaction – a long-time feature of Bermuda’s soccer and cricket authorities – may drive Smith out of the game for good. Is that fair – given the humiliating publicity that such a ban receives in the press – or desirable? Surely it is far better to ban him for a number of games or to the end of the season than risk losing a player to the sport (or to another sport) altogether.

I have no idea whether Smith is a fine, upstanding citizen normally or a sociopathic threat to society but let’s say he was a younger man for whom soccer was a way of escaping the clutches of less positive influences in his life, perhaps even gang involvement? Idle hands (or feet), devil’s work and all that. Surely far better to make every effort to keep him open to those positive influences.

Through my son’s involvement with junior soccer, every week I see young boys from every background dedicate themselves to training three times a week plus a game on Saturdays. It’s unquestionably healthy and I’d like to think that the discipline, teamwork and social interaction they get from it will stand them in good stead in later life, not to mention the possibility of a career in the sport or a college scholarship. Sure, some of them will go off the rails regardless but I’d be willing to bet that number would be far greater without soccer.

Yes, sporting bodies should be commended for trying to promote good behaviour, sportsmanship and so on but perhaps their zeal to enforce it needs to be tempered for the good of the game too.




  1. Colin Roberts says:

    Former Liverpool and Chelsea player Raul Meireles was banned for 11 matches for spitting at a referee in Turkey in December 2012 while in December 2013 Russian defender Vladimir Kisenkov was banned for six matches for the same offence. Perhaps in Bermuda the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime.

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