Strategic Losing

This week’s Shuttlegate (Badmintogate) events raise a very important integrity issue for sport.

A Badminton World Federation statement on the exclusion four women’s doubles pairs indicated that they were excluded for “not using one’s best efforts to win a match and conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

The exclusions reminded me a remarkable example of strategic losing in a Shell Caribbean Cup football game in 1994.

This is the Wikipedia account of the game Barbados v Grenada:

Grenada went into the match with a superior goal difference, meaning that Barbados needed to win by two goals to progress to the finals. The trouble was caused by two things. First, unlike most group stages in football competitions, the organizers had deemed that all games must have a winner. All games drawn over 90 minutes would go to sudden death extra time. Secondly and most importantly, there was an unusual rule which stated that in the event of a game going to sudden death extra time the goal would count double, meaning that the winner would be awarded a two goal victory.

Barbados was leading 2-0 until the 83rd minute, when Grenada scored, making it 2-1. Approaching the dying moments, the Barbadians realized they had little chance of scoring past Grenada’s mass defense in the time available, so they deliberately scored an own goal to tie the game at 2-2. This would send the game into extra time and give them another half hour to break down the defense. The Grenadians realized what was happening and attempted to score an own goal as well, which would put Barbados back in front by one goal and would eliminate Barbados from the competition.

However, the Barbados players started defending their opposition’s goal to prevent them from doing this, and during the game’s last five minutes, the fans were treated to the incredible sight of Grenada trying to score in either goal while Barbados defended both ends of the pitch. Barbados successfully held off Grenada for the final five minutes, sending the game into extra time. In extra time, Barbados notched the game-winner, and, according to the rules, was awarded a 4-2 victory, which put them through to the next round.

There is more information about the game here. There is a short YouTube video too.

Photo Credit

The Minton

3 thoughts on “Strategic Losing”

    1. Giri

      I think it is a great example of the observation that “rules do not bring about conformity, they bring about a different kind of non-conformity.”

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