Match day 24 of the current Bundesliga season featured the usual collection of clashes between teams searching for those vital European qualification positions and those hoping to escape the clutches of relegation zone. The fixture featuring FC Nurnberg and Werder Bremen provided a clear example of the latter. After a dreadful first half of the season during which they had failed to win a game, Nurnberg were slowing recovering while Bremen had won their first game of 2014 the previous weekend. What followed in the contest was an example in sportsmanship which should not be overlooked.
Werder Bremen survived some early home pressure to claim a half-time lead and then proceeded to double their advantage following a fortunate deflection. When Bremen’s attacking midfielder Aaron Hunt then fell to the ground in the penalty area when attempting to ease past an opposing defender, the referee pointed to the spot for what appeared to be a clear penalty.
A successful conversion at that stage would have virtually assured Bremen of the three points, but Hunt thought otherwise. In an instant, he informed the official that he had stumbled and it was not a penalty, a move which prompted the referee to alter his decision. There were no clear accusations of any diving attempt by Hunt, but his actions in correcting the referee drew handshakes from the opposition defenders who appreciated his honesty and sporting integrity.
As for himself, Hunt is a three times capped German international and was eligible to play to play for England on account of his mother’s nationality, but more importantly, he has been a Werder Bremen player throughout his senior career and most certainly cannot be described as a mercenary.
He has now been an integral part of the Bremen midfield for many seasons but his actions on Saturday contrast sharply with those of some professional footballers who seek to gain a penalty by whatever means possible. There have even been attempts by football officials to take more radical steps to eradicate the scourge of diving in the penalty area for which a booking seems too lenient a punishment.
In the case of Aaron Hunt, some cynics will argue that had Bremen not been leading by two goals, then the midfielder may have thought twice about admitting his stumble to the referee. That would be pure speculation and for now we can only applaud his honesty.
There will probably be times during the forthcoming World Cup when acts of cheating will become the topic of much debate, but it is refreshing to realise that not all professional footballers are intent on following this pattern and Aaron Hunt has proved to be a case in point.
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