Parents can sit back and relax this year while they are watching the 2010 World Cup with their young soccer fans: FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is cracking down on obscenities and overly aggressive behavior in this year's World Cup and demanding better sportsmanship.
It has been reported that referees for this past Saturday’s World Cup game between The United States and England brushed up on their English swear words before the game so they could enforce the rule. While the image that is conjured up in my head of referees testing out new swear words in a foreign language is quite comical, it is actually a serious matter.
Every sport has its players who have made a name for themselves by being obnoxious, vile, obscene and all-around poor sports. Soccer is no exception. Even the squeakiest clean athlete occasionally loses his temper in the heat of the moment and says or does something he regrets. Poor sportsmanship is often excused as just being part of sport, but I applaud FIFA for taking a stand and cleaning up the game.
Far more is at stake than a yellow card for inappropriate behavior, it isn’t uncommon for the head-butt of last night's game on television to be emulated during a child’s soccer game the next day. Athletes, especially at the World Cup level, are role models, whether they like it or not, and little eyes and ears are always watching and listening.
My children’s book, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star, addresses this exact issue and is a great way to start a dialog with your child about sportsmanship. In the book, Shawn Sheep is watching a big soccer match on television when his idol, Paul the Peacock, displays some poor sportsmanship. Shawn, starry eyed, thinks it is cool and emulates Paul the next day in his game. He talks trash, takes all the credit for his team’s success and is extremely disrespectful to the referee. He ends up getting himself red carded, kicked out of the game and almost ruins the win for his whole team. After an unlikely and disappointing encounter with his hero, Shawn changes his tune and faces the consequences for his actions.
While it is the perfect book for your little soccer fan, it is also an important read for all kids. As I say in my weekly blog, Sports Lesson’s For Life, the sports arena is where kids learn life’s fundamentals that will help them in all aspects of their lives, not just sports. Whether they are on the field or in the boardroom, being a good sport, teamwork and responsibility are important assets.
So, while I can’t promise that the die hard soccer fans will set a good example for you child, I am confident that the players will be on their best behavior. So, pop some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the game with your family!