Football is one of the finest sporting activities fancied globally. The fun of the game is heightened, especially by the numerous leagues and championships. Anti-sports citizens in a country magically fall in love with the football game when they see their fellow countrymen adorned in their national colors determined to play enthusiastically for their homeland. The most succinct part of the football game that can break the heart of supporters and football enthusiasts is the taking of a penalty kick. In fact, it is one of the most high-pressure situations that sometimes leave an entire nation glued to the screen of a television set! When a team gets that opportunity to win via penalty shootout and is missed, the pain that ensues is very unbearable. The aftermath pain or guilt is normally placed on the player who kicked the penalty, the coach who selected the penalty kicker, and sometimes on the entire team. However, when a football team plays a football game and the team loses the match on penalties, who should bear the ultimate blame?
Generally, penalty kickers are ultimately blamed for missing penalty kicks. The furious supporters vent their rage on the player and sometimes extend it to their innocent family members. Such was the case of the recent Senegalese and Liverpool star, Sadio Mane. After missing the all-important penalty kick against Cameroon, angry supporters ransacked his house and that of his relatives, destroying their property and other belongings. As a result, his family members had to seek refuge from the security personnel in the country for fear of loss of their lives. A similar situation happened in Ghana when the captain of the Black Stars failed to bury the game by scoring the last- minute penalty kick against Uruguay to take the team to their first semi-final in the 2010 FIFA world cup. The player and his family were hooted at, bitterly insulted and humiliated by some angry Ghanaian supporters. Unfortunately, some players had to pay with their lives as it happened to Andre Escobar of Colombia for scoring an own goal in the 1994 World Cup! These untold pains vented on penalty kickers are very disgusting, inhumane, cowardice and a misunderstanding of the essence of the sporting activity.
Football, like any other sporting game, is supposed to be a recreational activity. It is aimed at bringing unity amongst people and cultures. The nature of the game’s competitiveness, demands that one team wins and the other loses. This is part of the rudiments of the football game. Thus, when a team misses a penalty kick by one of their players, the blame and guilt must not be vented on the player, neither should it be placed on the shoulder of anyone. Winners of penalty kicks are just fortunate and lucky persons. Scoring a penalty kick is not a yardstick to evaluate the football skills and expertise of a player. After all, some of the world’s greatest footballers of all time have missed important penalty kicks. Classic examples are that of the Italian Roberto Baggio, who missed a penalty kick decider in the 1994 world cup as well as the French, Michel Platini’s penalty miss against Brazil in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Did the penalty kick miss of these iconic figures in the football sporting game make them less talented or skillful in the game? Certainly not! It would be unjust and an act of betrayal on the part of supporters of teams and nations to be furious against penalty kickers, coaches, or the entire football-playing teams.
It must be reckoned that players who missed penalty kicks already bear personal guilt which imposes heavy burdens on them. For instance, Roberto Baggio still can’t forgive himself of the penalty kick he missed in the past two decades and over! Ghana’s captain Asamoah Gyan has vowed not to take penalty kicks as a result of the deep scar his penalty miss at the 2010 World Cup has left in his heart! Therefore, why should supporters and fans of the football game aggravate their pain by taking injurious actions against the lives, personalities, families and possessions of penalty kickers, their coaches as well as their entire teams?
Supporters of the game must always remember to exhibit the spirit of unity, solidarity, and communalism to the entire team and support them in thick and thin moments. Of course, true and patriotic supporters of the football sporting game must rejoice with their teams when they win and more importantly weep with them, as it were when their teams lose. The aftermath pain and guilt that comes as a result of the heartache of a penalty miss must be borne by all- the playing team and supporters. This would help in deepening the essence of the football sporting game as a recreational activity aimed at fostering unity amongst the diverse people and cultures of the world.