There are not too many examples of idioms that work as well as this one, I reckon, but as an ex-soccer player, I would say that. However, there is a bit more to this idea that meets the eye.
The best soccer players play the ball (PB) because they can. Those who are not so skillful will more likely resort to playing the man (PM). The same applies to discussions. People with well-crafted content for an argument do not need to resort to playing the man, ie, using name-calling or exaggerated claims. In contrast, the participant who is not knowledgeable or well prepared will fire off extraordinarily dogmatic statements to win the argument. And without a referee to penalize an offender, they usually get away with it.
What if we were in a startup team and all agreed to play the ball, PB Culture? And we agreed to self-moderate our discussions so that whenever one of us felt that the other was playing the man, we could object in real-time. If the alleged offender did not agree to the objection, they could oppose. The dispute would then be automatically posted onto the Disputz Network to have our peers review and adjudicate the dispute.
We are most likely to be playing the man and using exaggeration when we disagree. Misbehaviors such as tone, volume, dogma, sarcasm, hypocrisy, browbeating, blaming, humiliation, threats, swearing, angry rhetoric, nagging, ignoring, and misleading in an attempt to win the argument by effectively cheating.