Fair Play is not dead

Football is often fearing neither god nor man, and cheating from players has always been part of this sport to try to influence the final result of a game. The video assistance is one (unperfect) response to that trickery, but the VAR was not present last Thursday in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, for the game of Europa League Conference between Olympique de Marseille and Karabagh. And yet, a miracle happened.

Senegalese striker from Karabagh Ibrahima Wadji did something very few football players have done in their career. It is neither a wonderful goal nor an avalanche of goals, it is simpler than that, and more meaningful still: after having scored for the 1-1, Wadji came to meet the referee and admitted that his goal had been scored with his hand.

Wadji could have let it go, nobody among the referees saw it, and there is no VAR in Europa League Conference games. After having hesitated and talked with the players from Marseille, the Senegalese forward spoke with his coach Gurban Gurbanov immediately after the goal. The latter told him they (Karabagh squad) did not need to score with the hand and that the truth had to come out. Finally, Wadji confessed the truth to the referee and the goal was cancelled.

In football, most of the players who find themselves in such a position generally choose to assume the cheating with sentences like “this is part of the game” or “that’s the way it is”. Failing to assume one’s responsibilities because of sports and financial stakes. Remember Thierry Henry against Ireland in 2009 and the joy barely masked of French coach Raymond Domenech while the qualification for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa had been acquired thanks to a draw 1-1? France could then thank Henry for his handplay, but the awful tournament a few months later in South Africa would be a fair backlash for the French, who would be kicked out of the competition with shame and ridiculousness.

“God will punish you if you do not tell the truth”, Marseille midfielder Matteo Guendouzi said to Wadji. Karabagh lost (0-3), but such an act should be remembered.

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