Taking one for the team or letting the side down?

26 February 2010 | 10:00 - By SBS Sport

Should an athlete's personal fears be put aside for the betterment of their team?


Wayne Bridge and Edwin van Calker chose not to keep their inner fears to themselves [GETTY]

The Wayne Bridge and John Terry saga has taken another twist, with the England left-back making himself unavailable for World Cup selection.

Bridge announced that the fallout from Terry's alleged affair with his former partner Vanessa Perroncel has made his position in the England team "untenable".

"It has always been an honour to play for England. However, after careful thought, I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive.

"Sadly therefore I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection."

So Terry, the villain in this story, gets the girl(s), and gets his opportunity to star at the World Cup finals in South Africa, while Bridge, the innocent victim, has sacrificed himself for what he feels is the good of the team.

However with incumbent England left-back Ashley Cole in doubt for the tournament with an ankle injury, Bridge's self-surrender leaves national manager Fabio Capello with a selection headache.

In thinking of team harmony, has Bridge let the squad down by further weakening an already injury-depleted defence? Should he put personal issues aside and get on with the job of representing his country on the greatest stage in football?

Meanwhile at the 2010 Winter Games, Netherlands bobsleigh pilot Edwin van Calker walked out on his four-man team on the eve of their event in Vancouver, saying that he no longer felt confident in safely guiding his vehicle and teammates down the infamous Whistler Sliding Centre course.

"For me, looking at my self-confidence and the way that I was driving in two-man, this was the right decision to make," said Van Calker, who suffered a crash in the two-man event.

"Some say it is a brave decision. Some say scared. For me, it's not about performing. It's about surviving."

But spare a thought for four-man crewman Timothy Beck – a dual-Olympian for the Netherlands after competing at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and then running in the 4x100m relay team for at the 2004 Athens Games. Beck was also the flag bearer for the Netherlands team at the Opening Ceremony in Vancouver.

"I focused everything on this Olympics. This was my last. It was my goal to perform here. I've seen the track, I've touched it with my hands but never been down it at all," Beck said.

The most scathing reaction perhaps came from Dutch bobsleigh coach Tom de la Hunty.

"I've never seen someone get to a major event and not compete because they're scared. You keep your inner fears to yourself and do it. You go over the top together."

Team sports rely on each individual performing at their highest level in order to have the best chance of winning. It can be a cut-throat environment, with pressure to perform from your playing peers, and at the elite level pressure to win for your country.

An individual player may have an off-day and be carried by the rest of the team, but if they are mentally shot before the event has even started then it's not worth competing at all.

Bridge and Van Calker have fears of a very different nature, but both chose to deal with their demons rather than put others at risk. Isn't that what 'taking one for the team' is all about?

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Comments (4)

03 Mar 2010 12:24 AEST


From: London wannabee


got nothing to do with adultery etc - i think bridge did it for the team,it wouldn't have been a cohesive unit otherwise and england need all the help it can get on that front as it is...

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26 Feb 2010 14:52 AEST


From: Seven Hills

Bridge/Terry/The England Team

I really hope that "Should he put personal issues aside and get on with the job of representing his country on the greatest stage in football?" was meant as a genuine question and not to suggest he is wrong to avoid playing. If I was playing for my Country, and thought there was a potential I could deck a team mate and see us both sent off, I'd probably consider the greaterf good and stand down too, even though in this case, it'd be what Terry deserves.

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26 Feb 2010 14:51 AEST

Ron Manager

From: Brisbane


Sorry, but this is the opportunty to represent your country at the World Cup. If Bridge will give that up over some argument with a former mate over an ex-girlfriend than in my eyes he hasn't got the strength of character to be in the squad anyway. Don't get me wrong, I still think John Terry is a despicable human being but I can't see him allowing the fuss surrounding this to affect his role in South Africa. Give me 23 adulterers if they come back with the trophy!

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26 Feb 2010 12:16 AEST

Manc Forever

From: Melbourne

Bridge/Terry/The England Team

With the Bridge/Terry saga I believe there is more to take into account than just personal feelings. Can you imagine the media following the England team just to report on how the two are interacting with each other. Not to mention the rest of the team and their personal feelings about this. My personal belief is that "doing the right thing" comes before the performance of the team. I am an England fan but I would rather see a decent human being take the pitch than a untrustworthy cheater like Terry. How could Bridge possible be expected to give a good performance with all this going on in his head. I don't know how Terry can live with himself. But you never know he could get injured during the Man City/Chelsea match this weekend!

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