Open Letter to President of Uruguay

3rd July 2010

Jose Mujica
President
Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Dear Sir

I write to you today as an educator and as someone who cares passionately about the legacy we leave for the future generations in this world. I am addressing you in relation to the extraordinary events that took place yesterday at the Football World Cup in South Africa.

I can quite understand that your first thoughts when you get up this morning might be to cheer and celebrate the sense of pride you feel that your country’s football team has got in to the semi-finals of this, the world’s biggest sporting event.

However, I would urge you to stop and think for a moment or two. In fact, I believe today you have been handed an opportunity of massive proportions, an opportunity that could have such a profound effect in the world that we may not today be able to understand the full implications.

The facts are simple. Your country’s team is in the semi finals because one of your players deliberately cheated. The price to be paid within the current rules of the game was that he was sent off and denied the right to play in the next match. So, technically, you could take the easy route and say that whatever happened did so ‘within the rules of the game’.

However, I am sure we can all see that this result, if it stands will be a travesty of natural justice and worse. Now, it may not be very ‘fashionable’ these days to talk of ‘natural justice’. However, I ask you to cast your mind forward. Suppose your team now went on and won the tournament. It ought to be a matter for the most wonderful national pride – not just now but for decades in to the future. However, will it not prick the consciences of at least some of your citizens? Will it not have the potential to become a massive thorn in the metaphorical side of your nation’s self-belief – every time the world’s commentators talks of your success, they nod and wink to remind all of the fact that this was a victory built on cheating and a travesty of natural justice? Sport is often taken to be a metaphor for life and where today’s sports stars lead, tomorrow’s children follow.

I will be honest with you that my fears go beyond your own nation. If this result stands with no response, we must worry greatly about the messages sent to every young person in the world, millions of whom follow this competition with such passion. The messages will be; natural justice counts for nothing, only winning counts and winning is to be attained at any cost. A strong message in favour of Machiavellianism will have gone out loud and clear, swamping out the voices of those who proclaim man’s greatest work is the creation of ‘the good society’.

If that is true, where will it end? A society destined to slide and degenerate in to war, destruction of the environment and survival of the strongest who are willing to dispense with all conscience for their fellow man? How long would mankind be destined to survive with such degeneracy?

The opportunity before you today, Sir, is an enormous one. If you were to lead your people in sending a profound message to the world you could place a profoundly meaningful mark on the world. That message would be;

“Yes, I and my country wish for nothing more than that our sportspersons defeat the highest competition in the world to be crowned the best. However, this is not the way in which we would wish to reach the pinnacle. The fact is, we all know, that shot was going in until a young player, on the spur of the moment did something way outside the spirit of sportsmanship. In such circumstances, it was not our true destiny to win and we therefore forego the declared victory. Instead, let true justice prevail. Our young people will strive and compete again, in sport, as in life, with their heads held high in the full knowledge that true victory is only worth having if it is won in the spirit of justice.”

I make this plea on behalf of the children of the world who look to their elders to provide them with the guidance and direction to make a better world.

Yours

Mark Parkinson

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17 Responses

  1. there is nothing wrong in what suarez did. though he did it in the spur of the moment , even if he had done intentionally its ok as long as referee sees it and take right action….one can point finger only when if referee fail to see it and player went on to take advantage just as it happened in GERMANY-ENGLAND macth..you should have wrote an open lettter to germans……..

  2. very well written. if winning by hook or by crook becomes the aim,the world will be destroyed,including the winners.

  3. After reading your post one thing is clear, you do not understand human beings at all.
    Put yourself in his shoes, your team, your country is on the doorstep of creating history and making the nation proud. You have a split second and you do whatever you have to. He did and he made his country proud. If he didnt, he would spend the rest of his life wondering what if he hadnt.
    You are right about sports being a metaphor of life. It teaches people to make the right decisions at the right time so as not to regret the future

    • I think my understanding of human nature is perfectly good. Win or lose from here on, people in his country will live with regret that they are branded ‘of weak character’.

      ‘Human nature’ tells me that when you’ve played thousands of hours of a sport your instincts are attuned to the rules of the game. In this case, a very simple one – unless he’s a former goal keeper with thousands of hours of experience in that position, human nature of a man of character says i don’t opportunistically cheat, but i respect the rules and the integrity of my sport. Otherwise, I shame my self, my family, my sport and ultimately my country.

      Your argument appears to be that the end does justify the means. If you think through all the ramifications of that, in every walk of life – are you prepared for the consequences?

      • it was a hand ball nd he was punished
        but the ghana team was nt able to capatalise
        did u write an open letter to france or to the germans ?

      • I love this argument, fit for the school playground (Junior School, of course), that if you have not spoken up against all and every wrong ever perpetrated, then you’re not permitted to raise your voice against ANY wrong. We’ve all heard it – you catch a child doing something wrong. Sometimes their first reaction to tell you why you should ignore their wrongdoing is to explain that before you arrived two other children did similar (or maybe even worse!).

  4. Mark, dude you need to chill. Enjoy the game (and your life as well). You seem to think a lot.

  5. Mark, you may have a technical point in terms of ‘football rules’.
    However, as was pointed out elsewhere here, why single out URUGUAY and even write an open (verbose) letter to their nation’s President?
    Have you treated all other teams and similar match outcomes with an even-handedness?
    Methinks not, judging by the history of your posts here.
    BTW – why are you writing to him and not FIFA? They are the ‘ultimate governing body’ of football worldwide and not any nation’s President. (God forbid that govenrment’s ever intervene of the field of play, as is being proven in Nigeria right now!)
    Come on – show a little sporting maturity!
    Brian – in South Africa

  6. I can feel your pain on Ghana’s loss. But that is what sports is all about. No need to take it as seriously as you projected. Ghana just lost in a football match. Whereas, much more cruel things are happening outside football. Why don’t you check that out.

    Regards
    Suresh
    India

    • What I have written is nothing to do with Ghana’s loss. However, it is everything to do with fundamental understanding of right and wrong, the messages we are willing to send to our children and the kind of society in which we wish to live.

      A society doesn’t make itself – it requires the efforts of people, people of character and substance who are willing to stand for what is right.

  7. Dear Mark, people who write that it is fair to cheat in order to win can never have won in life. They can never have conscience and are mostly completing the chores of life. Since they only keep concentrating only on the ends, they can be only supporters, never winners. What X did and whether Y was right is an age old excuse of the followers. Keep up the fight. Cheers!!!

    • Thank you for that, Rajeev. You know, someone attacked me on twitter earlier, suggesting i know nothing about football! Well, on that basis, i know nothing about any sport, because for decades of my life i have believed that what made sport worthwhile as an activity to engage in, or to support, follow, spectate was that it had core indestructible attributes of ‘sportsmanship’.

      If this was not true, where would be the limit? Deliberate physical maiming of opponents acceptable? In fact, why not poison your opponents before a match – all justified in the pursuit of victory.

      If what I’m being told is that there is no longer any such thing as sportsmanship then I would feel inclined to turn my back on sport and find better uses for my time. I would also figure that it was my duty to steer good, honest, moral children away from the nest of vipers.

      However, fortunately I don’t believe the ‘win at all costs’ arguments, so will continue to follow sport and encourage children to do likewise.

  8. Mark, having read the many responses to your blog + your replies, please note that my criticism was not at the substance of your argument about “sportsmanship”.

    Here, in our country, we face the same challenges you seek to address is young skills development!

    My critique was simply that I believed your open letter was directed at the wrong party and that it should have rather been delivered to the international controlling authority of a global sport that actually manages and defines the rules of the game.

    To my mind, there is no harm in sending a ‘copy’ to the Uruguayan President as one of their nation’s players seemingly behaved most poorly, in terms of gamesmanship.

    However, the Court of Justice and Fair-Play in this instance vests singularly with FIFA and their affilated 208 members globally.

    Your vision for imbuing a sense of ‘sportsmanship’ in our youth is most admirable.

    I am reminded of that great verse from the poet, Grantland Rice:
    “For when the one great scorer comes
    To write against your name,
    He marks – not that you won or lost –
    But how you played the game.”

    If humanity is to be better served and grow through an interactiveness in a sports arena…especially in youth development…let’s all make sure that all the organizers and rule-makers of such tournaments understand the basic premises of such a critical objective.

    Please promote sport. It builds bridges. And let’s hope that sporting authorities secure those bridges well!

    Brian – in South Africa.

    • For the future, i believe the rugby style ‘penalty try’ approach ought to solve the issue – if you commit an infringement on the scoring line that, in the view of the referee, prevented an inevitable score by the opponents, then they’re given that score (and if the culprit is clearly one individual no reason why they shouldn’t be sent off too!)

  9. Dear Mark,

    This was an interesting post. I am Uruguayan, and I am still difonic for celebrating that my national team is in the semi-finals after 40 years…

    When Suarez prevented the goal from happening, it was just a common reflex, just a desperate intent to prevent a goal, a thing that any player would do, given the circumstances. I do not take it as a deliberate cheating, a premedited act to make bad things to the oponent. It is just part of the game.

    These kind of “cheat” in this game, as most of other games, mainly when we talk in high competition, it is also part of the game. Why do you think that FIFA does not want to allow the referees to see TV cameras to deliverate in some circumstances?

    Errors and these “cheats” are also part of the game… and a fact that is more than important… as you say Suarez was punished, and a penalty on the last second of the game was marked…

    There are other occasions, if you see of other much more “serious” cases, in which deliverated events took place in footbal fields, and nothing happened, because they are also taken as part of the game. Remember Maradona’s “Hand of God” against England in 1986, England’s non-goal in 1966 against Germany that allowed England to win their unique world cup or Henry’s hand to defeat Scotland that prevented them to be in this world cup.
    There are hundreds of facts that may be considered as cheat…
    Even in Ghana-Uruguay game, there were LOTs of cheats. Lot of fouls that the referee did not mark in favour to Uruguay. Even the free kick at the end of the match, the one that allowed Ghana to send the ball to Uruguayan’s area and that ended with the penalty… that was NOT a foul. Did any of the 11 Ghana players said “no referee, it was not a foul, please do not mark it”… no, nobody said so… because even those “little” cheats are part of the game…

    In this case, Suarez was punished, a penalty at the end of the game, and Ghana failed to mark the goal.
    I do not think that it is correct to argue about Suarez’s moral… as it is part of the game, mainly taking into account that he was punished, that is very different to the previous samples I gave, which were not.

    So as a bottom line, we are playing this game, it is a beautiful game… if we were playing it in the backyard, these cheats would not happen, but as this is high competition, and the only purpose of this game is to win, and there is only one champion, some things which are not “perfect” do happen, and are part of the game!. There are other kind of cheats that should not really belong to the game, as the one I just described… and others, like Suarez, which are just part of this beautiful game.

    From my humble point of view, I believe that your thoughts are beyond the boundaries of the game, and are more related to other human activities, like politics for example.

    In Uruguay, we are workshipping the penalty that Suarez made not because of the cheat, but because he sacrificed his own future in the cup for the benefit of the whole team…. we feel prour for our men that are representing a nation of only 3.5 million people, a nation with lot of economical problems, but with men of honor, who have won with hard work, respect, humbleness, and respect for the other, to be one of the last 4 teams to leave the tournament.

    Hope you can understand my point of view.

    Sincerely,
    Diego

    • I’m afraid your comments only serve to reinforce my concerns that a culture of ‘win at all cost’ and do whatever you have to do to defeat others holds out a sorry future for society.

      I suspect that you do not speak for all citizens of your country. However, i fear that the moral majority who believe in the fundamentals of right and wrong are fearful to speak up. After all, they know that those who disagree with them believe that anything is justified to win a sports event, meaning presumably that also anything is justified to win an argument.

      There is nothing ‘beautiful’ about anything built on cheating, deception and dishonesty. If a man and a woman had a marriage in which they cheated, lied and behaved dishonestly towards each other – would you call that beautiful?

    • Very Well said Diego,

      Mark’s comments is not applicable when it comes to sports. I as a soccer player myself for years know that there are many subtleties in the game that are unexplainable.
      As you said, if we were playing in the backyard, one would not have stopped a goal with their hand, but this is at the World stage. A milli-second to give your country happiness or loss.
      Mark often keeps talking about ends justifies the means. This is a metaphor of life, not life itself. It is a game and it has its different sets of rules. Suarez was punished for his crime( i do not see it that way, i would have done the same) and Ghana failed to capitalize it. Again, ghana had a penalty which was unfair but noone seems to be complaining about that..
      I will leave it that.

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