BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
THROW sportsmanship out and you throw semi-professional rugby league out the window.
Papua New Guinea rugby league spectators, players and officials will never discover the meaning of being good losers.
Violence and rowdy behaviour have twisted their way into becoming a tradition in Papua New Guinea sports.
Rugby league fans and players top the charts on violence and hands down.
It is disgraceful and shameful and only brings home the message that league players and supporters are still primitive, living in caves and practising cannibalism.
Violence in sports is not a new issue; it keeps rearing its ugly head every now and then.
The underlying issue is in our attitudes.
Our attitude problem must be changed because it blocks our potential to transpose the game onto a higher level.
Sport is about having fun and keeping fit and healthy. It is certainly not about violence or winning at all costs.
The riots that resulted in recent weeks brings rugby league into disrepute.
Violence ended rugby league games in Port Moresby, Lae and Wabag.
Russ Kaupa, president of Lae Rugby League and an ardent promoter of the game for many years described the Lae riot after the Muruks versus Bombers encounter on Aug 9 as “barbaric”.
“It was the work of hooligans,” he said.
Our dog-eared old Oxford describes hooligan as “a rough lawless person”.
Violence in sports is now a norm – a disgraceful culture.
It has become a ritual to end matches.
It has taken hold and its roots are deeply embedded in rugby league ovals around PNG or should we say in the minds of hooligan players and supporters.
It is a deep-seated issue and dampens the tireless efforts of many hard-working people to promote and take the game to another level.
Violence also throws dirt on our bid to have a team in the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) competition.
Sponsors will be reluctant to support because they will not want their name or brands to be associated with violent players and fans.
Violence will also have a negative impact on rugby league and will continue to fly in the face of improvement and development.
Sponsors like bemobile spend so much money to promote the game and encourage its growth, but the work of hooligans only brings the game into disrepute and discourages future sponsorship and funding of development programmes.
The spectators and players violence has been condoned repeatedly but in vain.
A drastic measure needs to be undertaken to address this issue.
Just like what HIV/AIDS is doing to the immune system – weakening it, violence is doing to the rugby league system – weakening efforts that are in place to lift the game to greater heights.
Programmes to rid the game of violence need to be introduced for players.
It must not be voluntary but a must for players to honour and uphold because their actions has a domino effect on what spectators do.
It won’t be easy, because violent behaviour is a deep-seated issue.
A strong, nonsensical approach is needed to purge the game of violence.
Fines and suspensions will do no good because it is a mind thing.
The mind has to accept that defeat is part of the game.
At the moment many mindsets are not tuned to the frequency of good sportsmanship and fairness but to violence to address issues.
This must stop. It is killing rugby league.
It is not only in sports but on streets too. You see domestic violence and tribal conflicts.
These are examples of violent behavior and attitudes.
At the end of the day, it is our image as a country that suffers the most.
Rugby league has had enough of its war zone reputation and there is uncertainty if it will ever change.
Let us work together to make a difference.
Let’s bite the bullet and say no to violence in sports.
Let’s start by nurturing our aspiring young players to play league as it should be played – fair and square.
We should also drive the message through educational campaigns aimed at changing the mindsets, attitudes and behaviour of spectators.
Technology-wise, maybe the PNGRFL should invest in equipment for video refereeing.
Today, all roads lead to a dead-end in rugby league unless something is done now to address and curb violence on and off the field.
We must act now to rid spectator violence from the field and most importantly, from our minds.
We hope that spectators will improve their behaviour, and we think they can.
If we try, we would certainly echo the words of president Barack Obama: “Change we can” and “Yes, we can.”