Night after night from Brazil we see it, this alarming threat to footballers’ lives and limbs.
It starts innocuously enough with the flimsiest of contact from an opponent, or perhaps even none at all. But first appearance is so often deceptive. Once this contact, little or non-existent as it may be, has been made, the threat to personal safety is real.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at the sheer agony on the contorted faces of the wounded players. Hear their involuntary screams. Watch them writhe in acute pain on the ground, clutching a part of the body that may or may not have been touched.
Who could fail to be moved by the pitiful sight of poor Thomas Müller, so far from home in Salvador, after Pepe had smashed him full-on in the face? OK, maybe Pepe did nothing of the sort; Müller’s suffering was clear enough all the same.
To add to his already grave physical discomfort, he then had to endure what the media keep calling a headbutt -they mean butt, headbutt being tautologous – even as he lay moaning on the grass waiting for the ref to produce a life-saving card for his assailant. In fact, it wasn’t a butt at all but a brush but do not believe for a second that this is not also a traumatic event capable of cutting years from a fit young man’s life.
What a relief that Germany’s hat-trick hero was able to make such a heartwarming recovery once some emergency medication, in the form of the oafish Pepe’s dismissal, had been applied.
Think of the Brazilian team. Poor Fred, flattened in the penalty box after that most dangerous and cowardly of assaults, a defender’s hand nearly though not quite grabbing his shoulder. And then Spain’s Diego Costa, who quite innocently pushed his foot into a Dutch defender’s leg and was inevitably laid out with a yelp. What scant consolation for a wounded man to know his gesture has “won” a penalty and put his side ahead.
The examples go on. We must take firm steps now to ensure this phenomenon does not degenerate into something much, much worse.
So we are indebted to all the Platinis and Blatters of football regulation for coming up with this bold, overdue blueprint for progress.
In future, any player who
* shows visible and/or audible signs of serious pain
* fails to rise to his feet within five seconds of no contact being made
* fails to rise to his feet within 10 seconds of light contact being made
* rolls over more than three time, hands grasping the uninjured area, before lying motionless on the ground
* is genuinely injured (this, happily, is much more rare)
… shall be ordered to be stretchered off and substituted. It’s a simple enough plan but could work wonders for the health and safety of those participating in our beautiful game.
* For further reading, see Salut! Sunderland‘s own Ken Gambles on “How to end gamesmanship and cheating: pink mittens and goggles”: https://safc.blog/2011/08/how-to-end-gamesmanship-and-cheating-pink-mittens-and-goggles/