"Football is not a matter of life and death, it is more important than that."
Is there a place for sportsmanship in professional sport? What is the Christian view?
When Paulo di Canio caught the ball, rather than trying to score, so that the injured Everton goalkeeper could receive treatment, it mystified some but drew praise from others. Similarly, in a Spanish League game, Pedro Zamballa was faced with an open goal with the opposition goalkeeper unconscious on the ground. Zamballa deliberately shot wide. Again he was applauded by some as a great sport, but condemned by many of his club's fans.
Greg Linville argues for replacing 'sportsmanship' and 'gamesmanship' with the idea of 'Christmanship'*. He elaborates on the concept: "Christmanship embodies the best of sportsmanship (fun, fairness and being a good loser, etc) with the best of gamesmanship (giving one's best effort to win) but it transcends and surpasses them both. It challenges the Christian athlete to compete as Christ would compete." # When you compete at the top level, how do you keep everything in perspective? How do you give it your best shot without treating it like World War Three? The Christian's purpose is to show the presence of Christ in sport, the idea of demonstrating Christ's presence with us and in us in the sporting competition. It is the 'What Would Jesus Do?' philosophy, applied to competitive sport. It is to love our neighbour (our team-mate, our opponent and even the officials) as ourselves. No-one is saying that this is easy. However, it is in the way that we conduct ourselves in the heat of the battle that will show the difference Christ makes in our lives.
* Details of this and other incidents of extreme sportsmanship can be found in More Than Champions by Stuart Weir, Harper Collins 1993 pages 76-84. (Out of print)
# Contemporary Christian Ethic of Competition Greg Linville, Canton, Ohio (unpublished)