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30th June 2013 gave infamy to the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão.

As per the supplied reports, an amateur football match, in the remote northern town of Pio XII, saw spectators behead the match referee, Otavio Jordao da Silva, following an incident in which he stabbed a player by the name Josenir dos Santos Abreu.

Further details are that the player struck the referee after questioning a decision. The match official in turn stabbed the player in retaliation.

It was then that an outraged group of spectators allegedly turned on the referee. He was tied up, beaten, stoned and killed. They then put his head on a stake and planted it in the middle of the pitch.

It is difficult to look at such a story beyond the humongous shadow of senseless violence. The account confirms the cliche of an ugly side to the beautiful game. Fighting among rival fan bases, insults and mockery form part of this side to competitive sports. Few among us fans have escaped a taunt or two.

Rarely though do we degenerate to such extremes. Or do we?

Is football reflective of wider society, with its potential to explode into conflict? Is such behavior among previously calm individuals an indicator of inner stresses, anger or inherent frustrations? Was it merely a spontaneous (but isolated) case of a mob mentality on steroids?

It raises lots to think about including recognition that potential means of human unity and respect, such as religion, are among the biggest sources of discrimination and conflict. Not a dig on religion, organized or not, but an acknowledgement of failures in any human institution or idea.

As an example, are we less prone to judge our fellow men merely because we have been exposed to a formal, internationally based form of education? Human experience shows many cases that go contrary.

It therefore becomes difficult to glean any positive from such a barbaric act. However, such incidents can make us reflect a bit more on extremes within ourselves. Are we obsessed to the extent of conjuring ways to hurt anyone different from us?

If little things make men, what are the inner little things that define us? How developed is our character to handle situations like this one? What is our role in such conflicts? Not just in terms of whether passive or active, but do we see such as carthatic outlets for our inner beasts? Carthasis is justifiable in terms of being an outlet for pent up feelings. However, if such feelings can lead to maiming or any other form of hurt to fellow human beings, is it worth it?

That killing is unfortunate, near impossible to reconcile with any sense of civility. Rather than rush to judge the participating mob, it might be time for inner reflection.

The chief problem in front of me is that man in my mirror. For us to see positive difference in our world, it is time we changed. All change starts with me.

Image used with permission.

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