More nasty practices: trying to get opponents booked or dismissed

balls2Image: Shine 2010

The rotten face of football part two. In its relentless campaign to show up football cheats for what they are (whoever they play for), Salut! Sunderland has suffered arrogant, whingeing fans of other clubs who believe it happens only to them, never by. But we’ve been consistent, and as ready to condemn such acts by our players as by opponents. And the World Cup has reminded us of most of the forms cynical cheating takes …

To borrow from and adapt the words commonly attributed to Jack London (he was talking about scabs) ….

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made, for the game of football, the diver/feigner of injury/shirtpuller/bonebreaker and Suarez.

Each of these is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.

Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When he comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.

But God still had something left, a substance so vile that only one use could be found for it: he turned it into players who regard it as perfectly acceptable to try to get opponents shown yellow and red cards.

In truth, the substance cannot have been in short supply. We have seen, in match after match, the tactic used as if taken straight from the Manual of Good Football Practice. Van Bommel haranguing the referee after an outrageously threatrical dive by Robben made it look as if Michel Bastos, already on a yellow, had cut him in two (as opposed to barely fouling him at all, unlike in the first half when he fouled him quite a lot).

But we have seen it often enough from most other countries, too. And we get it week after week in the Premier.

Whether it is Buffon racing half the length of the field to ensure Zidane’s dismissal for butting Materazzi, Rooney turning to the ref (and not just for the free kick) each time he goes down or bunches of Arsenal, Man Utd or any other team’s players surrounding the ref in simulated anger, it is simply wrong. It would be just as wrong if Sunderland players were the culprits.

I would make it an offence, punishable by an automatic card, for one player to attempt to get another booked or sent off.

Is that, as I believe, a straightforward and unanswerable cry for decency in football? Or am I being hopelessly naive in seeking to apply any semblance of the Corinthian spirit to the game?

Colin Randall

9 thoughts on “More nasty practices: trying to get opponents booked or dismissed”

  1. In top flight football, where recordings of games are the norm, a courageous governing body could use video evidence to not only punish the offending player, but also overturn results that had been obtained through acts deemed to be “cheating.” Of course it won’t happen in the modern day.

    Had the France Ireland game been awarded to Ireland because of Henry’s handball then players and teams would soon get the message that cheating wasn’t worth it. If the technology could have been used to that effect then maybe it would be the offender who harrangued the referee to admit his mistake, rather than players of the opposition.

    There are precedents. A Mags v Forest cup tie was replayed after Barcodes fans invaded the pitch whilst 3-1 down and stopped the game which the Mags went on to win. That was in the 70s. A Burton Albion v Leicester City game was replayed after a coin hit and injured the Burton keeper. That was in the 80s. And wasn’t an Arsenal v Sheffield United game replayed after a throw in, meant to give possession back to The Blades was latched onto by a Gooner who scored? OK two of those were down to the actions of supporters and not players, but it has been done.

    Using technology during the match would also have allowed the correct decision to have been reached there and then without the need for a replay or recersed result.

    The penalty goal is a great idea. As was shown in the Uruguay v Ghana match, teams can still profit by abusing and using the laws of the game as they stand. The penalty goal and the sending off of the offender would be punishment enough.

    Had Lampard’s goal stood then we would all be berating England’s dire performance and not listening to those who are still saying “ah but if it had been two all……!” Technology would have worked again. There have to be limits, but getting a higher percentage of correct decisions has to be the way forward.

    But what also worries me is just how prevalent cheating and abusing referees is in the lower leagues. Again this is the norm rather than the exception. In agreement with Jeremy, I would like to see referees call together the captains immediately a player calls him/her or one of his/her assistants a f****** w***** or similar and whilst booking the perpatrator warn both sides that repeat offences will result in sendings off even if it eventually results in 7 a side abandoned matches. Of course this might be in a team’s interests, depending on the state of the match so the referees would report the result and the League decide whether or not to let the result stand or to overturn it.

    Sounds good in theory! Right now I’m off to eat some pie in the sky!

  2. I’d love to see a rule passed and enforced against bringing the game into disrepute. But I can’t see it ever happening. FIFA is only interested in the financial side of football. So many players, coaches and teams have come to believe they’re bigger than the game itself. FIFA sees no benefit in doing anything about that. The same goes for the FA. It is, alas, the people who govern football who are doing the most to bring the game into disrepute.

  3. The reason I said it would be difficult to replicate would be, because what we say should happen could never realistically be applied.

    Yes, if we had one or two matches where six players were sent off for a variety of shirt-pulling and diving antics, it would probably end pretty quickly.

    But that will never, ever, ever be done. We sit here and discuss it endlessly, I discuss it with my friends in the pubs and everyone agrees that it should be implemented – but I can’t imagine anyone still agreeing with it when they watch the match on TV or travel hundreds of miles on a round trip where they see a player sent off at fifteen minute intervals.

    Would it stamp it out? Yes, pretty soon it would. But I just can’t ever see a situation where something would ever be implemented so I generally just dismiss the idea myself.

    While I’m unsure on how we could eradicate all forms of cheating, I could definitely see diving being referred to a panel. Usually diving is pretty black or white, and with a variety of slow motion replays and angles it wouldn’t be hard to work out whether he did or didn’t dive. Sure it may affect the outcome of the match; say diving for a penalty which would subsquently be scored. But a post-match ban for two games or so would surely sort it out pretty sharpish.

    Although, if I was a player, I always said I would approach it in a different manner. If I was the ‘offender’ and a player dived against me, instead of wasting time trying to persuade a referee otherwise I would simply turn to the sidelines and wave for a stretcher to be brought on to help the clearly injured opponent who is currently in agony on the floor. Perhaps it wouldn’t work perfectly, but it’d raise a smile to see a player bewilderedly leave on a stretcher only to run back on seconds later – I’d then take pleasure in noting his miraculous recovery to the referee. It’d at least make me sign a lighter side to cheating opponents if I could get some fun out of it.

    Unfortunately shirt-pulling, diving, handballing and generally bringing the game into disreputee via diving will not be removed from our game this upcoming season, nor the next, nor probably in this next decade.

  4. Football had a great chance to woe the rugby watching people in South Africa, but they find the rolling about and constant play acting unpalatable. In Rugby you are cited if you do anything to bring the game into disrepute. We need the same in football, the ref following the letter of the law could do no more to Saurez, but if he were cited by a panel and sent home would it happen again? I was a miner and come from the ” never let them know your hurt” generation and the difference between winning and losing can be getting a player sent off, and therefore many like Gus Poyet believe it is acceptable or even justifiable. It has to stop and FIFA must put procedures inplace to makesure it does stop.

  5. You’re right about shirt-pulling and pushing, Jeremy. It never used to happen. And I can remember when rule No. 1 was DON’T argue with the ref. He’s not going to change his mind and it could get you in the book or sent off.

  6. Luke is right. It’s difficult to achieve. The reason that it has reached such proportions in terms of pushing and pulling is because it’s been allowed to. I’m sick of seeing referees in the WC stop the corner or free kick being taken to talk to the perpetrators. He should let them get on with it and the first time it happens book a couple of either side. Talk to the captain of each team and tell them that if it ends up at 7 a side and the game is called off then so be it. It’s up to them. Shirt pullers and pushing was for jessies when I was a kid. It never crossed your mind to pull a shirt on a corner. That was for tossers. The lunatics have taken over the asylum in football.

  7. Football has a lot to learn from rugby. The ten yard penalty wasn’t taken far enough in football. I did referee rugby where you were the sole arbiter of fact, but I wouldn’t like to try football. Certainly only one person should be allowed to “talk” to the referee and then only so far. I couldn’t see any of the over paid egotists calling anyone “Sir”.

  8. Luke it is not hard to deal with all refs have to do is apply the laws. If the FA say only a captain can question a ref’s decision for the purposes of clarification anyone else doing so is yellow carded.

    It only takes a few top players being sent off and their managers will stop them taking the risk. Another element of encouragement would be a ten yard encroachment for the free kick nearer the offending players goal.

    I personally would like to see a penalty goal awarded when a ball entering the net is stopped by illegal means just as you get a penalty try in rugby.

  9. The answer is both, I’m afraid Colin.

    Stapping out something like shirtpulling, calling for cards and diving should be easy to do. Yet in many respects it is also quite difficult to achieve.

    Needs drilled into them at an early age that the spirit of the game is the first thing instilled in the players.

    I pride myself on our players such as Cattermole, Meyler, Henderson generally playing within the confines of the game. Cana, yes, is a very tough tackling player and sometime errs on the edge of over-the-top fouls, but in my view – more often than not – also plays to the letter of law; and when he doesn’t, he’s been rightly sent off.

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