Fair play: Better safe than sorry

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's July 6 edition)
TWO months ago, a high school player in Manila passed away after collapsing in a basketball game.

To avoid such an incident this year, the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. is requiring its basketball players to have a medical checkup, which will include an ECG check, before they can be allowed to play.

I think it’s a sound move, one that should be adopted permanently by the league. They can even expand it to include other strenuous sports like volleyball and football. Thankfully, there have been no fatal incidents in football in the Philippines, but in professional leagues, there have been sad cases where fit-as-ox players collapse and die due to undiscovered heart ailments.

The required medical checkup is a great move because athletes rarely see doctors because they are rarely sick, so forcing them to see one might be good for them.

The incident in Manila is something that shouldn’t happen again, and it’s great the league is taking steps to make it so.

Anyway, if Cesafi is still looking for some innovations this year, there’s one that’s happening in Brazil that the league, or even other local organizations, might want to copy.

Football in Brazil is a religion and everyone there acts like an expert, and because they are all experts, they all think they are better than the match officials. So, referees in Brazil usually get harassed for every decision they make.

Not anymore.

The Brazilian football federation has given the referees the license to be loose with their whistles against players who whine incessantly. Let’s face it, most players are really guilty of complaining too much, even if their bootmarks are still visible on the other player’s skin.

Even superstars aren’t expected and now players are so afraid of talking back at referees that they don’t even greet them anymore, lest they be cautioned.

I don’t know how a move such as that can be adopted in the local scene, but I do know that some coaches treat complaining to match officials as part of gamemanship, which is a load of crap. Games would go smoother if we have less of these incidents where coaches complain every time they don’t like how the whistle is blown.

Short of giving the local referees an extra whistle that they can give these prima donna coaches, “You want to play, ref? Go be one,” perhaps giving them the license to be not too cautious in handing technicals or yellow cards to those who talk back might discipline officials.

Sure, there are times when calls are really questionable but not all calls are, right?

Being a referee in a professional league is a tough job; being a referee who gets paid per game in the Cesafi, where the coaches and players look down at you is a thankless job not for the faint-hearted.

Perhaps giving them the referee that leverage might earn them that respect they badly need.


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