Sportsmen of the world: No spitting or shoe-throwing

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Say what you will about America’s sports stars being poor role models and showing expert-level poor sportsmanship. Most of its well deserved.

For the most part though, our country’s got nothing on China, and most of our favorite sports and leagues have nothing on soccer — and I say this as a big soccer fan.

Put China and soccer together, and you get a unique celebration on FIFA International Fair Play Day.

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In an effort seemingly similar to what the NCAA tried to cobble together for phony public relations purposes, with college football teams shaking hands before their games, FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing organization, had it’s Fair Play campaign in full swing during this past weekend’s matches in the Chinese Super League.

The Chinese Super League proceeded to go three or four steps further to illuminate sportsmanship than even Oregon at the end of a loss at Boise State.

Had it happened in front of CBS or ESPN cameras, the Chinese Super League would’ve made Serena Williams’ display look like a calm discussion on the rules and traditions of tennis.

In three separate matches in the “Super League” this weekend, Fair Play was clearly not in the interest of the competitors. In the interest of diversity though, we can translate most of this pretty well to things we see right here in our backyard.

In one match, a tackle on the field sparked repeated brawls during and after the match. At one point, one team’s coaches, players, translator and team doctor surrounded and verbally abused the referee on the field.

This episode reads a little like a beanball leading to a bench-clearing brawl. The translator and team doctor being involved in the brawl, though — that’s original.

Aleksandar Zivkovic was banned for eight matches and fined 40,000 yuan — about $5,800 — for spitting in a referee’s face. Absolutely nothing lost in translation there. Big-time American sports has been there and back when it comes to spit as personal expression.

Finally, Wang Hongyou was suspended for four games and fined 20,000 yuan — the Chinese Super League is way behind the West when it comes to ramping up its fines — for throwing his boot at the referee. Hongyou gets additional points for effort, since he wasn’t in the game and he fired his shoe from the bench.

As far as I know, a shoe-throw suspension is new to American sports, if not politics and presidents.