Nancy Sinatra, the daughter of “old blue eyes” Frankie, once had a big hit song called These Boots are made for Walking. Seems like today in soccer, they are made for more than walking or kicking a ball with.
The amount of two-footed fouls, and they are fouls not tackles in the modern game is, to say the least, a serious cause for concern.
Is this a new trend?
Is this a new coaching tactic?
Is it now a new weapon in the armoury of coaches to win games?
Whatever it is, it’s going to get some poor unfortunate player broken up and consigned to the soccer scrap heap long before his time.
Let me give you some examples from this past season in the English Premier League.
It all seemed to start with Vincent Kompany of Manchester City some time ago and his now notorious foul on Nani of Manchester United which saw him (Kompany) receive a four match ban by the English FA.
Then we had Mario Balotelli also of ManchesterCity and his “raking” of Scott Parker for which he received a yellow card.
This was followed by Glen Johnson of Liverpool who escaped “scott free” – no sanction.
Three similar fouls – three different refereeing decisions.
Not to mention Pepe of Real Madrid who stamped on Lionel Messi’s hand in the Copa Del Rey at the Bernabeau and then a week later at the Nou Camp he attempted to “rake” another Barca player on the back with his studs. Each time he escaped punishment.
The most recent one was Assou-Ekotto’s absolutely awful over-the-ball potential leg breaker on Di Santos of ManCity. This was potentially the worst of all because Assou-Ekotto caught Di Santos half way up the leg on the shin.
How Di Santos didn’t have his leg broken in half is not only a mystery, but his good fortune.
Now here’s my problem. All of the above are definite red cards. No doubt about it. Mr Kompany got his just “deserts” – a red card. The other guys got away with either a yellow card or no sanction at all.
As referees we are “employed” to officiate at a game and punish players who transgress. Sometimes this can be a tongue lashing, sometimes a yellow card and sometimes a red card.
How is it that a World Cup final referee (Howard Webb) didn’t see a player being deliberately stamped on when he was not only ten or so meters away, he was even looking in that direction?
How is it that an assistant referee who was even closer to the Assou-Ekotto incident than Mr Webb in the Balotelli incident didn’t bother to raise his flag and sanction the offender with a red card?
How is it that all match officials are not seeing the same incident the same way?
Where are they looking when these incidents are taking place?
Yes, I hear you; they may be viewing it from different angles and therefore will have a different perspective on the incident. Sorry, that doesn’t wash with me.
I was always taught when running the line to watch behind the referee’s back and not to be watching the game.
As a referee I would impress on my assistants to do likewise.
Bottom line? It’s either they are watching the game or are scared because they are overawed by the occasion. It’s what I call refereeing cowardice.
If it’s the latter, then they are not suited to this level of football and should rather take their services elsewhere in the game where the pressure is less intense.
I am a firm believer that referee’s need to be psychologically tested to see if they can handle the pressures of top flight football. There is too much at stake today for all concerned to allow such incidents go unpunished.
It’s time the powers-that-be in Football Associations spend a little more time, energy and money on the training and development of match officials to bring them up to the standards required to meet the demands of the modern game.
About the author: Dr Errol Sweeney (PhD) BBA Dip.PM, aka “The Hanging Judge,” is a former L.o.I and SA Premier League Referee, World Cup Referee & Assistant Referee Coach & Mentor. He coached/mentored a referee to 2 World Cups, Olympic Games, Confederations Cup, 2 U/17 FIFA World Cups and 4 African Nations Cups. He also writes on his own blog at SuperSport.