Referee Martin Atkinson began the New Year with the bang. He showed courage when required and uncanny ability to spot a dive despite the Oscar like winning performance by none other than Chelsea’s Oscar.
In the 55th minute of the game between Southampton and Chelsea, when the game was still scoreless, Oscar was fed an excellent pass by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and found himself one-on-one with Southampton’s goalkeeper Kelvin Davis merely six yards away from the goal. Southampton’s goalkeeper charged out of his goal in an attempt to stop Oscar’s run and cut the angle to his goal but Oscar artfully flicked the ball to the left of the charging goalkeeper avoiding completely his desperate challenge.
However, instead of sprinting after the ball and putting it into Southampton’s empty goal, Oscar decided to show off some of his now well known theatrics. While Southampton’s goalkeeper was desperately stretching for the ball, Oscar decided to stop his run and drag his right foot to make contact with the goalkeeper and in the process to “force” referee Atkinson to point to the spot. Given the circumstances and the location of the foul, Mr. Atkinson would have been forced to award a penalty and send off Southampton’s goalkeeper for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
Mr. Atkinson, however, would have none of it and did not allow Oscar’s performance to spoil the New Year’s celebrations. Simply put, this time Oscar’s acting skills did not prove any better than Mr. Atkinson’s discerning eye and ability to spot deception. Without hesitation, Mr. Atkinson called a foul on Oscar for simulation. And, since according to Law 12, “a player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior, if a player attempts to deceive the referee by … pretending to have been foul,” showed Oscar a yellow card.
We cannot overemphasize that these kinds of decisions are incredibly difficult to make. Add to it the incredible speed with which this situation developed, the involved players’ pace and Oscar’s very good acting skills and it becomes almost impossible to make a right call in this kind of situation. When we watched the game, we had the benefit of slow motion replays and were able to review the situation from different angles. Ultimately, we arrived at our opinion that Mr. Atkinson’s decision was spot on. However, Mr. Atkinson had none of these advantages. He had to make his decision immediately and made it right. For this, even though he deserves much praise, we bet that very little, if any of it, will be heaped on him by TV pundits. We congratulate Mr. Atkinson for the job well done.
As for Oscar, we can only say that players like him, although they are very talented in their own right, would do better if they simply concentrated on honing their soccer and not acting skills. Players like that who have no qualms about doing anything that they view as necessary to win a game – to lie, cheat and deceive – should be severely punished by soccer governing authorities because their deceptive actions do not comport with the most basic principles of fair play.