Orchestrated glory is the wrong tune for any game

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 January, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 January, 1994, 12:00am

''HEY, Jim, yer not going to win today, are you!'' was the question, made indubitably rhetorical accompanied as it was by the steely flash of a flick knife.

The football goalkeeper, to whom the query with menaces was aimed, was afflicted with a sudden and severe case of ''dropsy'' resulting in his team losing rather heavily.

He received a good ribbing from his pals but avoided a stabbing.

That personal recollection of schoolboy sport at its most squalid was prompted by the Nancy Kerrigan and Monica Seles affairs.

All three cases were perpetrated in the name of sport by people with no active involvement in sport.

The young buck with the blade wanted his friends to win the football match, the guy who stabbed Seles was a fan of her rival Steffi Graf and it's becoming clear that Kerrigan was ''hit'' so ice foe Tonya Harding would be assured of a place at the Winter Olympics.

Sick as it may be, their obsessive quest for some sort of reflected glory is far from uncommon.

Ben Johnson became a willing partner in his pill-powered push for prestige but it was his coach who started him down the testosterone track. Ditto countless other gullible athletes whose mentors became their pushers.

Likewise, many a moustachioed midfield maestro has shaven off his facial hair, conveniently mislaid his birth certificate and tightened his jockstrap on the orders of the coach so as to be able to play for a team for which he was not eligible.

Countries have been caught and punished by FIFA for playing over-age players in youth teams but the practice continues to this day all over the world.

In most, if not all, cases it's those in authority rather than the sportsmen and women themselves who instigate the cheating process.

For example, the young members of the Philippines baseball team did not come up with the scam that saw ages in documents being tampered with so that a more experienced team could be sent to the Little League world championship in the United States.

Italian long jumper Giovanni Evangelisti did not know that his leap in the 1987 World Championships in Rome was extended to bronze medal distance by a couple of friendly officials (the result was found to be rigged and he was subsequently relegated to fourth).

And God knows, for the participants assuredly do not, how many boxing bouts have been won by the home fighter because the judges were bullied, bribed or both.

There's sporting skulduggery at school level as well.

Ask around and it will not be long before a friend admits to having played ''down a team'' at some time or another.

There's a story going the rounds that a couple of players took time off work to play in a recent schoolboy game in Hong Kong.

It may seem harmless enough but if little incidents like that are allowed to carry on unchecked what chance is there of stopping the big-time cheats? Sacrificing principles on the altar of success is a heathen practice that everyone involved in sport, at all levels, should do their utmost to stamp out.