Marius Ebbers of St. Pauli has won himself a place in the fair play hall of fame by admitting to a referee an undetected handball that resulted in a late-game go-ahead goal when playing Union Berlin earlier this week (see above). The goal was thus disallowed.
This event reminded one of my students of a vigorous debate that we had at my colleague Ben Hale's blog back during the 2010 World Cup over the Luis Suarez intentional handball at the end of the Ghana match (so Ricardo, this post is for you;-). Was that cheating? I argued no (Ben, an ethicist, argued yes):
Ghana did not get screwed. The intentional handball in the box is covered by the rules and is severely sanctioned, with an automatic red card and penalty kick.Ebbers situation was more like Theirry Henry's intentional handball in 2010 World Cup qualifying versus Ireland. Were Ebbers to have lied to the referee, a case could be made for cheating. He did not lie and the good karma that apparently resulted from this act enabled St. Pauli to score an injury time winner.
In every sport players face judgments about when to incur sanctions covered under the rules. A NFL cornerback will take a pass interference penalty rather than allow a touchdown pass. A NBA player will hack-a-Shaq when the game is on the line. And a soccer player will intentionally handle the ball when the alternative is a allowing goal that loses the game.
Ghana did not win this game. They had a great chance to do so, and a fair chance, covered under the rules. They simply did not capitalize.
Uruguay did not cheat. The had a player who consciously chose to incur a penalty. It would be no different than a dangerous tackle from behind on a breakaway.
If you want to talk about handballs and cheating, well, Ireland has a gripe. Ghana does not. You can argue for a change in the rules — fair enough — but playing fairly under existing rules does not make this episode cheating.
As they say -- ball don't lie.