Sport and Heartbreak; Hand in Hand On and Off the Pitch

I am a sports fan, while I don’t get to watch it… ever (a side effect of having 4 kids and a wife that dislikes sport with a passion), but still, I love sport. I read all the sites (BBC/sport and ESPN being my main sources of information) news articles etc and so it was with a heavy heart that my weekend ended. Not only hearing about the tragic incidents involving Kansas City Linebacker Jovan Belcher, but also an even more disturbing story involving a amateur youth football (soccer) game here in the Netherlands.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen (41) was a running the line at a local amateur football club, where he was also a member when tragedy struck. Mr Nieuwenhuizen was attacked by several players involved in the game he was helping to officiate, a game in which is own son was playing. The three players aged fifteen (two of them) and sixteen kicked and stamped on him in a vicious attack. As a result, later that afternoon, Mr Nieuwenhuizen collapsed into a coma and died in hospital two days later as a result of that beating.

The three youths involved have been detained and authorities claim that they plan to prosecute them, however, this incident highlights a problem that is much larger than this one tragic incident. How can this sort of behavior exist in modern society. We are talking about children attacking an adult in the middle of a sports game, and then beating him to death…. wh? What would create such a reaction that this was the necessary outcome? It saddens me to say that it must have been because of an incident related to the game… GAME! I cannot get over this enough. Murder is never the answer, violence… ok, to be honest, yes, sometimes, but NOT like this.

Sure, the footballing world is reeling from such events, and everybody is crying out in a mixture of rage, condolence and sheer bewilderment. All amateur football has been cancelled next week, and armbands will be worn by professionals during their games. A nice gesture, but surely society will not expect that this will solve the problem.

We live in a society where violence towards one another is becoming not only commonplace, but accepted. Sports are a reflection of society as echoed by Sepp Blatter president of FIFA the sports global governing body.

“Football is a mirror of society and sadly, the same ills that afflict society – in this case violence – also manifest themselves in our game, ”

Sadly, it is not just limited to football, just the other week in the Netherlands, a fight broke out at a kick boxing gala which ended with gunshots and fatalities. This can also be linked to a series of assault charges and aggressive incidents involving top Dutch / Moroccan fighter Badr Hari, who has now been reprimanded in custody pending charges that include attempted murder!!

Where will it end? I was brought up with the belief that sports were about self control. teamwork, discipline, and above all… fun.

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