x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Life lessons, off the pitch

Mercy is a noble virture, but may not be the right way to deliver the message that there is no room in sport for violently rowdy fans.

The ability to forgive and forget is a virtue many of us lack. This is especially true on the sports pitch, when crosstown rivalries and allegiances to the home team can even divide families.

Sometimes, though, empathy is not the best way to send a message, or even the most helpful. This has been highlighted by the case of the 14-year-old boy charged with hurling a battery at a football referee in Dubai last month.

The decision by the injured official, Mohammed Al Muhairi, to drop charges is indeed merciful. The boy could have faced a year in prison, harsh treatment for a youngster who made a stupid error in judgement. But Mr Al Muhairi's rationale, that letting the boy off "will leave a positive impact among young people" may not have the intended effect.

Certainly the young Al Ahli fan has learnt a lesson. We assume he's been punished by his parents, and ridiculed by other fans, given the Pro League's decision to award victory to the opposing team, and to require Al Ahli to play its next two games in front of empty stands.

But we can think of more good ways to ensure the boy gets the message. A few hours of community service, like sweeping up Al Ahli's stadium after a future home match, would teach another needed lesson.