In one episode of the Baltimore police drama the Wire, rival drug dealers spend thousands of dollars buying in ringers for the annual Eastside vs Westside basketball match.
After the game, the losing dealer berates the referee for allowing the winning basket to stand.
This is more than just a game, though. And where money and prestige are at stake, people can be tempted to bend the rules, or even break them.
It’s why Lance Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs, why Swansea ball boy Charlie Morgan got a kick in the guts from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, and why last week, Pakistan cricketer Mohammed Asif appealed against his ban for spot-fixing in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
This win at all costs, and by any means, mentality sometimes filters down to grass roots sport.
A few years back, I took a group of eight- and nine-year-old schoolgirls to play a football match against another local school.
They had only been to two lunchtime clubs, so my plan was that they’d enjoy their game, and hopefully want to play football again the following year.
It soon transpired that the other school’s coach, a parent, had a different idea.
On this wannabee Alex Ferguson’s watch, eight year old schoolgirls fouled, pulled shirts and shoulder-barged their opponents.
They swore, yelled insults, appealed for throw-ins they knew weren’t theirs and argued with the referee whenever a decision went against them.
Throughout the game, coach ‘Ferguson’ stood pitch side, encouraging his team to ‘get stuck in’ and berate the ref, whose sole purpose in life was obviously, to cheat his team out of a well-deserved victory. The FA has moved a few goalposts recently.
From September 2013, under sevens and eights will play five-a-side, on smaller pitches with appropriate sized goals.
It will be seven versus seven for the nines and 10s, and nine-a-side for the 11s and 12s.
Full-sized 11-a-side games begin at under 13 level. And that’s still a year sooner than in Spain.
Junior football should be about enjoyment and development, the FA insists.
They want young footballers to learn skills and tactics, not to be taught how to win games and leagues.
Adult results-orientated competitiveness, the FA believes, stifles children’s creativity, decision-making and ultimately, their talent.
They want coaches to take the long-term view and produce 20-year-old footballers not under 10 teams that win tournaments.
Budding Alex Fergusons take note.
Visit Crispin’s website at www.crispin-andrews-freelance-writer.co.uk
l Crispin Andrews is an Aylesbury-based writer and journalist.
He writes for the Cricketer, Four Four Two, Inside Cricket, Reader’s Digest, Flipside and Engineering and Technology Magazine.
He has played cricket locally for 25 years, including stints at Aylesbury Town, Tring Park, Dinton & Buckingham Town.