OH, WHAT A BAD KNIGHT! – by Mal Davies
This article concerns the match on Tuesday 5th March 2013 : Manchester United v Real Madrid (1-2, aggregate 2-3) in the champions league.
I’m publishing it because although the match was a little while ago, the central point in this post is incredibly important. It reveals either a complete lack of knowledge of the rules of football by Sir A F or extreme duplicity and pretty much gross incompetence by the same man. Tony
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir; ARs: Bahattin Duran & Tarik Ongun; 4th official: Mustafa Eyisoy; AARs: Huseyin Gosek & Mete Kalkavan. All officials from Turkey .
The 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League game, ManUtd v Real Madrid, had a big talking point after the 56th minute dismissal of Nani (ManUtd) for Serious Foul Play, namely, endangering the safety of an opponent, Alvaro Arbeloa.
It was a bad night for ManUtd who led 1-0 through a 48th minute own goal by Sergio Ramos, and a bad night for their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who was too ‘distraught’ after the game to appear at the press conference.
Sadly the media portrayed the decision by the referee to dismiss Nani as shocking. The argument was that Nani was attempting to control the high ball, coming over his shoulder, with his foot, and did not intentionally make contact with Arbeloa.
‘Intent’ was taken out of the Laws in 1995 by the International FA Board, our law makers – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and FIFA make up the IFAB. With ‘intent’, referees were being asked to read the player’s mind. Did he intend doing that? But now, referees are no longer required to do this.
Referees will now look at the outcome in an incident. Briefly, if, for example, a player is on the ground, the referee now has to forget intent. The player has got there because his opponent has been at least careless (no card), reckless (yellow card) or used excessive force (red card). Referees are also asked to bear in mind that a tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as Serious Foul Play, a red card offence.
The game is football : using the foot to play the ball; in fact, using any part of the body except the hand or arm. Heading the ball is also allowed. Guidelines for referees when considering ‘endangering the safety of an opponent’ in the Nani incident is, more or less, players are allowed to use their feet up to about waist high. Above that, the player can head the ball but if he uses his foot, he should make sure there is no player in the immediate vicinity whose safety will be endangered (red card).
Some people argued that Nani’s action was Dangerous Play. Dangerous Play is now an indirect free kick if it involves no physical contact between the players. If there is physical contact, the action is no longer Dangerous Play but becomes an offence punishable with a direct free kick or penalty kick. So Nani was not guilty of Dangerous Play under the new interpretation.
A scissors kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent.
In Nani’s case the ball was above waist high. He should have been intercepting the ball with his head or chest or not playing the ball at all. It was up to him to make sure that, if he decided to use his foot at that height, his foot would not make contact with an opponent.
Nani’s foot was up. His leg was straight. He made contact straight into Alvaro’s chest. He could have fractured a couple of ribs. He did not but he could have. Nani, some people argued, did not intentionally aim to injure Alvaro, but intent no longer enters the equation. The outcome saw both players on the ground as a result of Nani’s lack of consideration for the safety of Alvaro. It was a clear red card for Serious Foul Play by endangering the safety of an opponent.
In many employments, the employee would be cautioned (yellow card) or sacked (red card) if he broke company rules. And so it is in the best interest of the employee to be aware of those rules. But football is an employment which has employees working without knowing what their boss (the IFAB) regards as misconduct, not fully knowing what they can be yellow or red carded for. It seemed that, in Nani’s case, the manager and his players were not aware that such an offence warranted a red card. And most in the UK media, sorry to say, were also unaware.
FIFA and UEFA have seminars where their officials are shown DVDs of incidents (fouls) and the interpretation that the Laws require them to make. If there is a referee who does not carry out the application of the Laws correctly then he might not be asked to referee many games or he could be demoted, and in certain circumstances possibly removed. He cannot referee a game using his own interpretations as Laws need to be uniformly applied worldwide.
Referees cannot use common sense. They used to. But then the media complained about the referees not being uniform in their decisions.
Now, not only are the Laws in a booklet, but also the Interpretations & Guidelines appear in the present day ‘Laws of the Game’ booklet. There should be no excuse for anyone misinterpreting a Law.
“The world will be watching” said Jose Mourinho, Real’s manager, before the game. So what an opportunity for the world to learn the Laws and its new interpretations. Well, not that new as they have been around for a few years. The media owe it to fans to put over the correct interpretation of any Law especially if a Law has been amended or updated. But the media let everyone down.
The UEFA Referee’s Observer at the match was Pierluigi Collina who backed the referee’s decision and marked him 8.2 out of 10. He would have got more, Collina said, if he had not ignored Rio Ferdinand’s clapping in his face after the final whistle. UEFA had ‘no issues’ with the red card.
Coaches must instil into their players they are not to injure or endanger the safety of opponents who are fellow professionals. Not being aware of the interpretation together with, what a number have said, the tactics chosen by Sir Alex, cost ManUtd the game. It was not the referee’s fault. He officiated in the manner his bosses required and was given a high mark.
Once a team is reduced to ten men, any manager should then have a different strategy. Mourinho, realising his team were now playing against ten men, brought on Luka Modric to replace Arbeloa. Seven minutes later, in oceans of space, Modric was allowed to shoot for goal and score from 25 yds, 1-1. Two minutes later, a goal kick started a 21-pass move between Real players without any ManUtd player touching the ball, and ending with a goal by Ronaldo, 1-2 and aggregate score 2-3.
ManUtd did not score themselves. Their goal was a 48th minute own goal by Sergio Ramos. So they went 90 mins without scoring. With 10-men including Rooney, left out of the starting line-up, now on for Welbeck, ManUtd had good chances to score but failed.
Real’s manager reorganised his team to meet the 10 v 11 situation. He quickly seized the opportunity while his opposite number was still thinking about the decision to award a red card to one of his players at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex saw his team fail to score in the first half, score through an own goal, and then receive a red card for one of his players. He did not seem to have an immediate strategy for his players, now reduced to playing 10 v 11. They saw their manager descending the steps, wagging a finger at the referee, confronting the 4th official, and then looking for more support from the crowd!
Outcome? Real quickly scored two away goals, and Sir Alex was too ‘distraught’ to answer questions after the game.
Players reflect their managers. They saw their manager confronting the referee, wagging his finger. It was disappointing to see some of the ManUtd players after the game likewise confronting the referee.
A bad night for ManUtd and for Sir Alex.