Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hands Off!!

So there I was yesterday afternoon, watching Liverpool's Champions League clash with FC Porto (Liverpool won 4-1), not exactly rooting for the Merseyside Reds. The first 78 minutes of the game were pretty even, but then Fernando Torres coolly slotted a right-footed finish in the back of the net to break open what was then a 1-1 affair. Liverpool won a free kick just five minutes later, and captain Steven Gerrard served the ball into the box.

Then it happened.

Porto's Milan Stefanov was lucky not to be sent off after reaching up and handling Gerrard's ball in, and match referee Roberto Rosetti had no choice but to point to the spot.

Steven Gerrard converted to put Liverpool up 3-1, but before he took his penalty, I had expected to see something and was disapoointed when I did not. Maybe it's because John Terry and Chelsea weren't playing, maybe it's because an English referee wasn't in charge. No one from Porto put their hands on the Mr. Rosetti!!

It's absolutely ridiculous when I see this happen almost on a weekly basis and to be honest, usually with Chelsea. Whenever a referee awards a controversial red card or a PK against one team, players on that team protest vigorously (which in itself is fine) and often physically confront that referee, either putting their hands on him or bumping him or as John Terry is famous for doing, literally trying to hold him back from showing the card.

Physical contact with a referee should be grounds for an immediate red card, and the sad thing is that at the lower levels this goes on too and the referees put up with it. I've seen countless yellow cards awarded for dissent when a player is 20 yards away from the referee and mouthing off, but I've never seen one red card or even one yellow card from making contact with the ref. That doesn't make any sense; so words (dissent) can earn a card but actually physically intimidating and touching doesn't get a player in trouble?

In baseball, ANY contact with an empire in that context is an immediate ejection, no questions asked, end of story, and that player and/or manager will be suspended for several additional games. A game misconduct or a match penalty (both of which result in ejection but the length of the suspensions handed down after the fact vary depending on which of those two infractions you're penalized under) is given in hockey for abuse of officials, both verbal and physical. Same thing goes in football (unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and/or ejection), basketball (technical foul/flagrant foul), and seemingly every other sport besides soccer. Excessive and obscene arguments seem to be tolerated in soccer, as does physical contact. This simply shouldn't be the case.

To be fair, referees are partly to blame as well. They have the authority to send someone off under FIFA's Laws of the Game for contact made and often choose not to, which just encourages players to do it again the next time they don't like a decision made against their team. If players see that a referee is a pushover, they know that they can do almost anything they want without fear of reprecussion. I can't count how many times I've seen Chelsea players standing over the referee and flapping their hands and arms around, showing him up, holding him and whatever else, and get away with it scot-free. If these players were to be sent off or at the very least, cautioned for their actions, it would help deter those players from doing whatever they were doing again. It's at the point now where I start laughing when I see these small, skinny referees get bossed around by players when the opposite should be the case.

Grow some balls, fellas. The crowd may not like it, they may even boo (Oh no!), but you have to start taking a stand against these players.

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