LIMA, Peru–Organizers are facing another public relations nightmare after the championship match between France and China at the World Marco Polo Championships was halted midway through the third period following allegations of illegal use of the eyes by the Chinese squad.
With 5:07 remaining on the game clock, French captain Pierre LePieux attempted a “fish out of water” play when he was caught by Chinese defenseman Chang Yu. A heated argument erupted soon after when LePieux accused Chang of peeking.
The scandal recalls last year’s WMPC event that was marred by eventual champion Venezuela’s team being accused of widespread pool urination. This year’s championship had been considered a return to form for the sport following years of steady decline in popularity.
Once considered the world’s most popular sport, attendance has been down after a string of scandals in international play, beginning with the infamous 1994 incident in which Nigeria’s team was discovered wearing floaties during the semifinal round.
However, until now there has never been an allegation so heinous as peeking during professional competition. The charge stunned Johannes Blick, commissioner of the International Marco Polo Association, who now questions if the sport has a future at all.
“Marco Polo is a sport of kings,” Blick said, “Discovered by the famous explorer on his journeys to the Orient, its basis is the honor system. Opening one’s eyes when you’re “it” breaks that honor code. I truly hope the allegations are false.”
The championship match has been indefinitely postponed while officials study the film to try and determine the validity of LePieux’s claim. Meanwhile, the future of the sport remains unclear.
“Hopefully, we will have an answer soon,” Blick said, “Someone brought up the term ‘blindfold’ after this all erupted. One shudders at the thought. Is there nothing sacred?”