Football, as we all know, has enormous power to prompt actions that are both bad and good. Two stories from far-flung regions of the world remind us of both this week.
First, the bad news.
From the Netherlands, we hear of the shocking death of a linesman who was attacked and beaten by a group of youth players after officiating a match over the weekend.
The Independent reports that three players from Nieuw Sloten, a youth club in Amsterdam, beat 41-year-old linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen so severely on Sunday that Nieuwenhuizen was taken to the hospital. Doctors said Monday that Nieuwenhuizen had died from his injuries.
If that doesn't shock, this will: One of Nieuwenhuizen's sons was playing in the match. Police said they have arrested three players between ages 15 and 16.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter expressed shock on behalf of the entire football world:
I was deeply shocked to learn of this tragic incident. Football is a mirror of society and sadly, the same ills that afflict society—in this case violence—also manifest themselves in our game.
Nevertheless, I remain convinced that football—through the example set by the tireless efforts of people like Mr Nieuwenhuizen—is a force for good, and we must continue use its positive example to educate people against these wrongs.
In the face of such senseless violence, Blatter is right to put his hope in the power of football to accomplish good. That hope is reinforced by a story from Mexico about Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez.
Known affectionately as Chicharito, Hernandez is so popular in his native Mexico that crime drops when he plays. Really.
English paper Metro quotes Mexico City police chief Jorge Carlos Martinez, who said "crimes like car-jacking, muggings and robberies go down" when Hernandez plays.
That's not all, either. According to Martinez, birth rates also rise when Chicharito takes the pitch.
That might sound silly—and it might just stretch the limits of plausibility—but after hearing the news from Holland, football needs a feel-good story just like this.
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