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Mexico beats Panama 2-1, and a legal versus ethical dilemma lingers

The Mexico men’s soccer team beat Panama Wednesday night in Atlanta in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, on a 2-1 overtime win.

A penalty kick assigned by the referee at the 88th minute was a questionable call, and at the time, Panama was winning 1-0. The Mexican player scored the penalty kick, the match went to overtime and, on a second penalty kick, Mexico scored for a 2-1 win, making its way to the final.

It was absolutely legal for the Mexican player to score the first penalty kick. The referee assigned the penalty using his granted authority. But was scoring the kick an ethical decision?

After the referee assigned the first penalty kick, the Panamanian players complained, claiming there was no foul. The coach and his staff did the same. Even some Mexico supporters at the stadium didn’t like the call. Controversy and chaos interrupted the match for almost ten minutes.

But the referee’s decision stood. And therefore, from a “legal” perspective, the Mexican player was fine to score it, as he finally did.

During an after-match interview, the Mexican player admitted he knew the penalty call was a mistake. The player admitted thinking about whether or not he should score it. He finally decided, he said in the interview, that “it was not my fault if the referee made a mistake and, as a professional soccer player, I had to try my best to score.” 

The Mexican coach, in his interview, said “there are instances when mistakes are assigned against my team and others take advantage of that, and there are instances when mistakes are assigned in our favor, and we should take advantage of that as well.”

The thoughtfulness and honesty were impressive.

I was impressed too with the opinions of several Mexican journalists (TV and digital media) who spoke out against scoring the penalty kick. Most agreed it wasn’t the right thing to do because it wasn’t “the most ethical decision,” even though not scoring would have resulted in Mexico’s elimination from the competition.

I’m not judging the decisions taken on the field or the opinions expressed afterwards. I’m simply calling attention to the legal-versus-ethical dilemma that arose during the match. It was extraordinary to watch the drama play out not in business, or politics, but in sport.

And so today I’m asking: Do we all face such dilemmas more often than we might initially realize — even in many of the casual and common situations of our lives?

*     *     *

This note contains personal opinions and does not necessarily represent those of my employer. In writing this opinion I am not representing nor acting on behalf of my employer.


Felipe Maldonado Garcia is a compliance and ethics senior manager at Oracle in Miami, Florida. He focuses on internal compliance investigations. In addition to a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering, he holds CFE and CCEP-I professional certifications.

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1 Comment

  1. Great note. I think we should commend honesty. The problem here is also that in the previous match, Mexico also beat Costa Rica on a penalty kick that was also last minute, that was also contested, that was also, through video, shown that there was minimal contact..And eliminated Costa Rica. So, two matches end on the same circumstances? We all have doubts about the honesty and transparency of soccer nowadays with the FIFA scandal and match fixing and I definitely feel these matches seem too suspicious. Let's see if US authorities think this is worthwhile to be investigated since the US is not "hurt" by these actions.

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