Lessons in Messi and Pistorius convictions

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July 09, 2016
file Oscar Pistorius (centre) leaves the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, July 6 after he was sentenced to six years in prison for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
@Normal:Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left) and his father Jorge Horacio Messi sit in court in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday June 2.
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Western Bureau:

This past week has not been a good one for the image of international sports as two of its iconic figures, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi and the phenomenal South African track star Oscar Pistorius, were both given prison sentences after their respective convictions for unrelated criminal offences.

Messi, who is arguably the best footballer among the current generation of stars, was found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in a Spanish court. He was subsequently sentenced to 21 months in prison alongside a substantial fine.

However, based on Spanish laws, which allows persons whose sentences are under two years to serve probation instead of actual jail time, Messi will not end up in a cell. However, he will have to live with the unenviable tag of being a 'convicted tax cheat' for the rest of his life.

In the case of Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his famous model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, he was carted off to jail following his conviction. From all indications, his life has basically been torn to shreds since there appears to be no room in his situation for redemption.

While this is not the first time that iconic sportsmen have found themselves in trouble with the law, and will probably not be the last, I am hoping and praying that our Jamaican superstar athletes will look at these situations and take heed because, as my late father would often say, "Trouble don't set like rain."

Personally, I am very happy that Messi is unlikely to spend a single day in jail, and this is not because I believe that important sports figures should get special treatment if they flaunt the law. It is simply because I feel that the Argentine was the victim of bad advice.

It is against that background that I would want to urge our Jamaican athletes to surround themselves with competent handlers while also seeking to educate themselves on the intricate details of the business of sports. In times of trouble, blaming an incompetent handler is not a legitimate defence, as Messi found out.

In fact, I would love to see our local sporting figures taking on the kind of shrewd business acumen that is being displayed by the likes of basketball great LeBron James, who is not only well grounded in terms of a lack of 'hype', but is also on top of his game insofar as properly managing his affair are concerned.

While Pistorius could be telling the truth about killing his girlfriend by mistake, I believe his reputation as a hot head worked against him in his murder trial. Now, with all the glamour removed from around him, he probably is a hopeless wreck.

Although accidents do happen at times, I believe if our athletes try to live their lives so as to minimise the scope for grave errors, they stand a better chance of not getting in trouble. I would therefore want to urge them to surround themselves with upstanding persons, who are unlikely to influence them in a negative way.

In fact, it would be wise for them to use the misfortunes of dancehall star Vybz Kartel as a point of reference. Despite being the most revered artiste of his generation, he is now behind bars serving a life sentence because, based on his murder conviction, he made a costly error.

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