Monday, May 21, 2012

Lunch time Football (soccer) Matches

The arrival of spring weather also means the beginning of a soccer tournament between classes held at noon each day. These matches have been going on for about a month and I think we're down to the playoffs where the best teams of each grade are matched against opponents from a grade one year higher or lower. For example, today's match was 4B versus 3C. Because most of my misbehaving 4th grade boys are also the "stars" of 4B's football team I thought attending their match would be a good way to "earn" some better behavior from them.

Basically this match was 4th grade soccer at it's finest with the added pressure of a humiliating defeat should 3C snag a win. I have to start with the goalie for 4B. I never knew there was an official school PE uniform because on PE day the students usually wear their favorite football team's colors or an official jersey (well, maybe a Turkish faux official copycat) of their favorite player or team. For example, the red and yellow Galatasary, black and white Besiktas, or the infamous Fenerbache (in trouble for match-fixing) jerseys are common PE clothes. It's common to see Ronaldo, Messe, or other big names stamped on their backs. But, 4B's goalie did not get the memo to wear some "cool" clothes or to bring his goalie gloves. He was sporting his school uniform polo shirt that may have fit in September but was now riding up over his poochy belly (they call it a balkon- balcony) leaving just a line of white skin showing over his bright orange PE shorts. His PE shorts had a untied string threaded around the waist that was swinging down between his legs touching his knees with every step he took. If I were his teacher, I would have politely asked him if we could take care of the uniform issues so he would "fit in" just a little better. The string was very distracting to me as a viewer but I'm thinking it was a little awkward for him as a player as well. And, I know his having buck teeth is not his fault, but the kids call him "rabbit" and I'm not sure it's a term of endearment. Turkish or will be mean. This kid is probably not a real goalie. I'm not even sure he plays soccer. But, I'm thinking the "stars" of the class were so sure they would dominate that he was just there to fill a slot.

Being the underdogs, 3B did not have the pressure of a win, but they did have the enthusiasm to play, they hustled a lot more, and they had a scary coach (I guess because he is an administrator of the school he can stand at one of the goal posts and coach his players.) So you can guess where this is going, 3B did make the first goal. The "stars" on 4B were livid and threw the soccer right into their own goalie's chest, stormed down to the center, and resumed an ugly match. They, however, did not volunteer to play goalie because they wanted they all wanted to be forwards and try for the unassisted goals. In general at the lunch time matches, red cards are common..usually at least one per game. Fights between the halves and at the end are common and the disrespectful body language, arguing with the refs, and fake injuries make them appear like mini football stars.

I know you're dying to know who won but I couldn't stay until the end. I don't know if "sportsmanship" is an American concept just like "weekend", but I do know their behavior made me uncomfortable. Have we been so trained to watch for bullying and to earn trophies for good sportsmanship that we've lost the concept of a sports competition? Or, is this just another example of a "fair" Turkish match?

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