Text of this morning's thought. You can listen to it here at 2h 43m 58s
The World Cup came to its conclusion yesterday with one winning goal, but also with 46 fouls, a record 13 yellow cards and one red. That was sadly in keeping with a tournament that will also be remembered for its ludicrous quantities of cheating. It's hard to say what the biggest problem was: players fouling or players pretending to be fouled.
How has football become such a dishonest game? It is not, surely, because footballers are particularly deceitful people in general. Nor can it be put down to a lack of religion in world soccer: numerous players crossed themselves before taking the pitch or pointed heavenwards when they scored, but on the field they seemed to be no more honest than any others.
The simple explanation seems to be that players cheat because the rewards for doing so are high, the punishments light, and the chances of being caught low. Plus, when everyone else is doing it, it seems crazy not to follow suit.
In this respect, I fear football is not so different to the rest of life. That might sound pessimistic, but it reflects something important about what it truly means to be good. It means doing the right thing even when everyone else is doing wrong; behaving well when you could get away with behaving badly; doing what you should do, when no one can see you doing it, not even a God. If we follow the rules in fear of the red card we are neither good nor bad, merely prudent. If we want to be good, we should not play to the whistle – we should just play fair.