"Between the Lines" is a column written for the HSA newsletter by Stu Gentry, a long time member of Horsham Soccer, coach and referee. (This article 1st appeared in our 6/02 newsletter)
This is the first in a series of columns aimed at sharing a referee’’s perspective on the game of soccer. I thought I would start with my absolute favorite play, even though it is one where the referee is a mere spectator. It is a play that goes to the heart of what soccer is all about, but one that you will not find anywhere in the rule book. It is the play that happens when someone gets hurt.
How can an injury be my favorite play? Quite simply, it is the sportsmanship shown after the player goes down. Watch any World Cup or MLS game, and you will see that when a player goes down, the team with the ball intentionally kicks the ball out of bounds to stop the play. It doesn’’t matter which team has the injured player or which has the ball, the result is the same. And this happens even though the team putting the ball out knows they will lose possession. It doesn’’t stop there, because when play resumes the team with the ball will throw the ball back in to the team that originally had it.
To my knowledge, soccer is unique with this display of sportsmanship. Imagine one of the Phillies stopping at first if two outfielders crash into each other. How many times have you seen an NFL linebacker celebrating when he has hurt the quarterback?
Professional soccer players have every bit as much at stake, yet they display an uncommon respect for one another. Do not mistake this as meaning that soccer is a game for sedate ladies and gentlemen. It can be a war out on the pitch with both sides giving it all to win. But there is a basic human compassion that stays on the soccer pitch, no matter how fierce the game. That is why I choose to stay involved with the game.