THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

4 October ~ Ever keen to find the smallest reason to feel good about themselves, the English public and media love to vilify a South American football player when the opportunity arises. This past week we have heard the sound of collective booing aimed at Manchester City's Carlos Tévez, for failing to take orders from his boss (no greater crime for Englishmen who've willingly kowtowed to a titled aristocracy for centuries), and at Liverpool's Luis Suárez, for making the most of a semi-legal challenge from Jack Rodwell. Not only are these foreign lads over here earning vast amounts of cash, it seems that they also act in their own best interests, or even the interests of their team. Shocking.

It's easy to pick on Suárez, because we always remember him as the Uruguayan villain who last year denied the African continent its first-ever team in a World Cup semi-final. Our moral daggers were never sharper than when we condemned him for openly celebrating Ghana's failure to convert the last-minute penalty he had caused by handling the ball on the line to prevent a certain winner. But imagine the heroic headlines if that had been Stevie G or brave Frank Lampard raising a hand and taking the bloody red card of sacrifice for the sake of their beloved homeland.
 
Suárez's action did not make him a cheat. He merely used the laws of the game to his advantage. Like any professional, he does what it takes to get results. Our pseudo-ethical pontificating is not going to change that, because any game played for money pretty much forfeits the moral high ground. The condemnations from the press box and the ex-pros in the gantry are just so much hypocritical wind. Played for free back in the day, did you? Never tugged a shirt, or claimed a corner-kick when the ball had come off you and not your opponent? Never committed a "smart" tactical foul?
 
That's not to say we can't do something to curb football's tiresome gamesmanship and rife manipulation, even while accepting that 19th century-style Corinthian behaviour is an ideal that's been dead and buried for well over a hundred years. Take the Suárez handball, for example. It would need just one adjustment to the laws to prevent this happening at any level of football. Simply award a goal if, in the opinion of the referee, a shot bound for goal is illegally prevented from crossing the line.
 
The player should still be red carded if he or she is deemed to have acted with the deliberate intent of preventing the goal. If there is any doubt (and with the help of a linesman and a penalty area referee, there are three pairs of eyes to make a decision), then the player should be yellow carded instead. So another player who handled on the line against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, Australia's Harry Kewell, would have been given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to play on.
 
Another example – Major League Soccer this season started imposed fines on its players for diving, especially in cases where a referee was fooled into giving a penalty. But like Suárez's handball, many of the dives still paid off in terms of points won, and players will have been happy to pay the fine in return for the better result. That's simple economics. So why not retroactively cancel any resultant goal and adjust the scoreline, as well as fining and heavily suspending the player? If the action didn't affect the result in terms of points won, dock the offending team a point or three. If television replays are already being used post-game by the league to determine a player's guilt, why should the innocent party, the defending team, not benefit too?
 
Suárez, to keep returning to our example, is not a South American cheat. Like him or not, he is a modern sportsman, using all the means at his disposal to achieve commercial success, just like thousands of other professional players. These players exploit weak laws, while FIFA remains impotent, as ever too terrified of radical change to fix the game for the better. Award goals when the ball hasn't crossed the line? Change scores after the final whistle? But we've never done that before, so we can't possibly start now! And that's why you and I get to feel superior by shouting out "Cheat!" Ian Plenderleith

Comments (35)
Comment by erwin 2011-10-04 11:38:15

Ian,
I'd suggest that any cheating diving gits and mollycoddled 'stars' earning 250,000 quid a week who sulk about not being picked to start are fair game for criticism. The fact that they might be South American should not give them any special protection.

Comment by johntheface 2011-10-04 11:49:39

Agree with some of the comments in this article but can't see why you mentioned Tevez. Even if you don't think Suarez did anything wrong you can't possibly defend Tevez at all. He wasn't using the weak rules of the game to his advantage, he simply refused to do a job that he gets paid outrageously for.

Comment by ooh aah 2011-10-04 11:59:13

If the FA weren't so stubborn about the rules regarding the use of TV replays to retrospectively punish players, much of this wouldn't be a problem. It seems they can rescind a red card if it is deemed that the card should not have been issued (which will almost certainly happen to Rodwell). But they won't increase a players punishment if the referee gives a free kick, even if he should have issued a red card. This would go a long way to improving the relationship between players and managers on the one hand and referees and the authorities on the other. It would also help to stamp out the two footed lunge. If a player knows that even if he doesn't get caught in the game, he'll still get banned afterwards for 4 matches, then only a total idiot will continue to do it.

And Suarez is a cheat. He's not alone, far from it. All players bend the rules. The difference is when somebody pulls another players shirt it's to gain a temporary advantage. Diving to win a free kick is an extension of the same impulse. The majority of fouls are also done for this reason. But some fouls are nasty, with the intention of hurting or injuring a player. This is worse as it's an attempt to deliberately deprive a team of a key player. When Suarez deliberately attempts to get Jack Rodwell sent off it's to permanently deprive an opposing team of a player, and for me that makes it worse than a dive or a shirt pull. It's not as bad as the two-footed lunge, but it comes from the same place - the aim of gaining a permanent advantage. So logically Suarez's punishment should be more severe than that of someone shirt pulling. And yet shirt pulling often results in a sending off, whereas diving rarely does, and simulation never does.

Retrospectively punishing a player behaving like Suarez with a 3 or 4 match ban would be the most effective way of preventing it from happening again. I realise that it's difficult to judge whether a player is genuinly injured or not, but I think a panel of physio's and assorted medical experts should be able to judge, based on the replay of the challenge, watching the players initial reaction, combined with dramatic recovery time when the game restarts, whether or not simulation had taken place. I think we can all say with some certainty that an old woman with a zimmer frame would not have reacted like Suarez did the other day.

Comment by Moonlight shadow 2011-10-04 12:10:10

Excellent stuff Ian, you're hereby authorised to speak on my behalf on all matters pertaining to cheating in football.

Comment by Why at Last! 2011-10-04 12:20:22

I don't agree with your line on professionalism here, which seems to cede the "moral high ground" to the old amateurs. Don't buy it.

Outside sport, the word "professional" is linked with the word "ethics". The cynicism we associate with professional sports players isn't inevitable, and neither is it universal. And even if it were, why should fans, who are the exact opposite of "paid", share it? People didn't like what Suarez did, even if it was within the rules. I think they're within their rights.

I also don't share your analysis of some people's frustration with Tevez (though I don't really share that frustration itself either). The rhetoric you hear isn't about his failure to knuckle under, it's about his failure to exert himself despite his enormous wage. It's rooted not in deference but in, if anything, a sense of injustice. A somewhat wrong-headed sense, for my money, but still: that, rather than a zeal for obedience to the boss class, is what I'm hearing.

Comment by jonmid 2011-10-04 14:07:17

Tevez Ian let his teamates down and the fans who paid money to see him , his actions were disgusting and dispacable as Graeme Souness said Tevez epitomises everything that is wrong with modern football his refusal to play for his team isn't about obeying orders it's about the anger at the amount of money he earns and him not willing to play that's why so many people are angry at his actions it's not becasue he is South American it's because he's a selfish mercenery

Comment by jameswba 2011-10-04 14:56:10

I agree with erwin and johntheface. There are very reasonable points in the piece, eg about awarding goals when the ball is clearly going in, as in the Suarez World Cup incident. However, using the Tevez incident to make spurious points about the English love of the moral high ground does the article no service whatsoever.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-10-04 15:50:29

Everyone knows that theres examples of players from the UK bending the rules, however its never quite as ridiculously flagrant as some of our foreign counterparts. You could for instance argue that Owen & Lineker won the odd dodgy pen here and there.

However I have never for example seen a British keeper do a Dida at Celtic Park or a British striker contort his face in agony and writhe about like Klinsmann used to do in pretty much every World Cup match he played in. Ive never seen a British player behave like Rivaldo versus Turkey in 2002 either.

The Corinthian spirit may have been destroyed by FIFAs gang of crooks but its not fair to say its as bad amongst the British as it is anywhere. We genuinely cringe when we see this type of behaviour regardless of who it is. When the likes of Gerrard or Lampard are so much as suspected of diving they are completely slaughtered for it probably more so than someone like Suarez. We actually expect it from Suarez.

Its not the case that we are blinkered when its our own who cheat like Plenderlieth tells it.

Comment by jonmid 2011-10-04 15:56:53

and I have never seen a British do what Tevez did either maybe Ian should think about that instead of having a go at people who have the audacity to critcise both suarez and Tevez for their actions.

Comment by imp 2011-10-04 16:41:43

Thanks for all the comments. I cited Tevez because he's an example of press and public jumping all over a foreign player as soon as they're given the chance. I recall no such campaign for the serial diver Steven Gerrard. I don't recall a squeak about Paul Scholes diving in the League Cup final against Liverpool a few years back, though I've read a ton of prose on what a great player, person, pro he is. Overall, I suppose you might argue that he is, despite years of dangerous two-footed lunging (cue chortles from commentators about how old Scholesy likes to go in a bit over the top). And so too Tevez is a huge player, but that gets too easily buried by one or two bad incidents when you're not of English blood.

By the way, is there a wage limit on the right to refuse to work? I thought most people on this site would back the right to strike. I honestly don’t give a rat's arse about Tevez, Mancini, Man. City or the Champions League, but I'd back a player's right to refuse to enter the field of play if he had a good reason (he believes the manager to be tactically incompetent, say, and that he's being thrown into an impossible situation at 2-0 down away to Bayern Munich), just as I'd back the manager and the club’s right to punish him as they see fit, in consultation with the players' union. Doesn't make Tevez a bad human being.

Why parallel Tevez and Suarez? Simply because they are players disporportionately vilified by the xenophobic nature of the English press and public, when really they are just products of the modern game we all tolerate by watching it, and paying to watch it, and by working for or buying the media that create the relentless, hysterical hype that requires (preferably foreign) villains. I think you can see that I'm not condoning Suarez, just saying that his actions reflect the wayward development of football and its almost total lack of a moral compass. Ian

Comment by Why at Last! 2011-10-04 17:00:30

Yeah, I agree with pretty much all that, including the universality of the right to withdraw labour. I just don't detect any love of *deference* in people's condemnation of Tevez. It's not "Do as you're told", it's "Do what you're paid a fortune to do"; that's what I'm hearing, anyway. It's not quite the same thing.

Comment by jonmid 2011-10-04 17:01:44

Tevez had no right to do what he did all the time last summer he wanted out of city and has tried to undermine his manager 's authority as well as hurting the many man city fans who paid to see him. Ian here is Scholes in his own words http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2044920/Paul-Scholes-Of-course-I-tackle--I-crunched-people-revenge.html. And has Tevez mentioned he was on strike? I don't recall him saying that.

Comment by toffeedaz 2011-10-04 18:08:51

'....Liverpool's Luis Suárez, for making the most of a semi-legal challenge from Jack Rodwell.'

'Suárez, to keep returning to our example, is not a South American cheat. Like him or not, he is a modern sportsman, using all the means at his disposal to achieve commercial success, just like thousands of other professional players. These players exploit weak laws...'

I'm sorry but making the most of a challenge by feigning injury is cheating.
FIFA call it simulation.

FIFA's rules now state that "Any simulating action anywhere on the field, which is intended to deceive the referee, must be sanctioned as unsporting behaviour" which is misconduct punishable by a yellow card.

The law is isn't weak, it's football's governing bodies and referees who have proven to be weak by not ensuring that this law is obeyed with the consistent punishment of those who break it.

...and no it doesn't matter if the player is English or foreign. Cheating is cheating.


Comment by jameswba 2011-10-04 18:13:12

'Why parallel Tevez and Suarez? Simply because they are players disporportionately vilified by the xenophobic nature of the English press and public..' Probably fair enough to a point. My 'problem', though I don't by any means see it as one, is that, living out of the country, I'm simply able to ignore those sections of the British press you might consider xenophobic. In any case, I still feel Tevez was unnecessarily shoehorned into this article.

As for '..he's being thrown into an impossible situation at 2-0 down away to Bayern Munich..', it reminds me of something in Garry Nelson's first book. Charlton were 2-0 down somewhere and not looking remotely like coming back when Nelson, who'd been named as a sub, was ordered to start warming up. He admits that he asked himself what the point of him going on was as he was never going to affect the result.

The difference could be that Nelson, being the loyal old pro, went on and did what he could, while Tevez, the egotistical superstar, couldn't be bothered to perform even a basic duty. Or could it be that Tevez, unlike Nelson and the thousands like him who do what they're told every week, is actually the honest one? I prefer the first explanation, though I guess you could make a case for the second.

Comment by reddybrek 2011-10-04 19:42:16

Tarring Gerrard with the same cheating brush is a tad harsh and very generous to the likes of Klinsmann Dida Suarez Rivaldo Drogba etc.

Gerrard is often labelled a cheat because he won a penalty in the champions league final. He went down a bit easily but there was some contact and we are hardly in Klinsmann territory here.

Its a cliche but this is a basic question of mentality. The British mindset is that its fine to be commited in the sport which often translates into perhaps an overly physical style. Kicking lumps out of someone isnt neccasarily frowned upon but writhing about and making a fuss must always be 1st on the list of reasons to take the piss out of a footballer.

As for comrade Tevez we should all defend his right to strike but not the fact that he is a massive twat. Argentine or otherwise.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-10-04 20:29:14

I hate to mention it, but....

VIDEO TECHNOLOGY.

If referees had access to instant video replays, would Jack Rodwell have been sent off on Saturday? No he would not. Suarez could throw himself to the ground as much as he liked, and Lucas could wave imaginary cards around till the cows come home - it wouldn't matter a jot. The fourth assistant could just send a message to Atkinson - clean tackle, no foul committed, no action required - END OF.

Video playback for refs may not be the panacea for all the game's ills, but it would render a lot of the cheating completely pointless.

(Just my opinion of course...)

Comment by jameswba 2011-10-04 20:48:07

Re technology to judge fouls ; either it would need a break in play or the ref would have to stop the game immediately. If the former and it's found there was a foul, all the play in between the foul and the actual stoppage will have been irrelevant. If the latter and it was found there was no foul, play has been interrupted unnecessarily. I can imagine a lot of drop-ball restarts under this scenario.

Also, technology doesn't always prove things conclusively. It might have done with the Suarez incident (which I haven't seen) but it doesn't always, meaning that human interpretation would still often be needed.

You'd also need to be wary of refs 'running to the camera' too often rather than taking responsibility for decisions. Technology's no panacea, especially for a game that shouldn't last much over 1 hour 50 mins, including the half-time break.

That's just my opinion of course.

Comment by worldcupboy 2011-10-04 21:09:10

Suarez is a ridiculous, small, cheat, from Uruguay.Cheat.

Comment by jonmid 2011-10-04 21:24:12

when it comes to technology an idea a friend of mine whould be to have someone watch the game on a monitor and communicate to the referee via an earpiece when there is an incident

Comment by Coral 2011-10-04 23:04:29

Comment by Coral 2011-10-04 23:09:01

Above link is to an Englishman diving, yet not really heard much about his dives, and I like him

Comment by Janik 2011-10-04 23:24:14

Diving generally gets branded as one of the worst forms of cheating (with little cognitive process behind such a branding, obviously). Odd then how the Ghanaian who did pricesly this to win the free-kick that eventually ended with Suarez batting it off the line gets easily forgotten.
It's almost as if there are cheats on the side one is supporting, who are fine, and cheats on the side one is opposing, who are scumbags.

Comment by Skowz 2011-10-04 23:53:04

Hang on a minute though... Suarez didn't dive!
Rodwell takes the ball, then slides on and clatters Suarez. Flies straight through him.
Granted Suarez makes the most of it, too much rolling round, but that isn't diving.

Right??

Comment by madmickyf 2011-10-05 05:15:17

Wow Ian, writing more 'controversial' stuff to get a reaction are we? Trying to compare Tevez's spoiled-brat behaviour to England's down-trodden masses is drawing a long bow even for you.

Comment by ooh aah 2011-10-05 07:04:03

Not even under the most generous interpretation of the word could it honestly be said that Rodwell 'clatters' into Suarez. There was about as much contact as I'm making with my keyboard right now.

"I honestly don?t give a rat's arse about Tevez, Mancini, Man. City or the Champions League, but I'd back a player's right to refuse to enter the field of play if he had a good reason (he believes the manager to be tactically incompetent, say, and that he's being thrown into an impossible situation at 2-0 down away to Bayern Munich"

Whilst I agree with your point that foreign players are villified more than there English counterparts, the above comment is just rubbish. 2-0 down is not an impossible situation, not for a team as talented as Man City. It's difficult for sure, but nothing even remotely close to being impossible. And if Tevez believes the manager is incompetent he shouldn't have travelled to Munich in the first place. He should have gone 'on strike' in a slightly more appropriate way. Trade Unions announce in advance if they're planning a strike, and to be honest as someone who supports the principle of TU's I find the equating of the two slightly offensive (well maybe not offensive, as I'm not easily offended, but let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if Mad Mel or Littlejohn had made the same comparison).

As I say, I agree that foreigners are treated differently - compare the reaction to Ronaldo's dives to Gerrard's, but it's not just that Suarez is foreign. There are lots of foreigners in England, many from South America. But Anderson, Lucas, Hernandez etc aren't getting the abuse that Suarez is getting. But they don't cheat as much as Suarez

Comment by reddybrek 2011-10-05 09:21:03

A few examples.

Lehman and Drogba playing pussy shove in a hilarious game of Lets Try And Get Each Other Sent Off In The Most Embarrassing Way Possible.

Rivaldo taking a ball. Yes a ball. In the chest and holding his face writhing about on the deck.

Dida being tapped on the back of the head by a fan before holding his face and writhing about on the deck.

Klinsmann in 90 World Cup Final. Albeit with slight contact does a double twist and pike before writhing about like like hes stood on a landmine.

Anyone whos scouring youtube for clips of Gerrard admittedly fishing for penalties in an attempt to draw parallels or justify any of the above is full of horseshit. You cant tar him with that brush as no matter how controversial and smart you think your being. Hed simply be too embarrassed and no-one would ever let him forget

Comment by ooh aah 2011-10-05 11:27:28

So what you're saying is we shouldn't criticise Gerrard because his cheating is more convincing?

Comment by toffeedaz 2011-10-05 12:09:26

Comment by Skowz 04-10-2011 23:53 [Offensive? Unsuitable? Report this comment]
Hang on a minute though... Suarez didn't dive!
Rodwell takes the ball, then slides on and clatters Suarez. Flies straight through him.
Granted Suarez makes the most of it, too much rolling round, but that isn't diving.

Right??

No it isn't diving, but feigning that you're hurt more than you are in order to make the tackle look worse is simulation.
It still has the same objective as diving, which is to fool the ref into giving a free-kick or pen & getting a player booked or sent off.

Comment by Moonlight shadow 2011-10-05 12:12:34

And the "Angry Little Englander" award goes to....REDDYBREK.

Well done son!

Comment by reddybrek 2011-10-05 13:10:40

Ooh-aah -

Can you honestly say that Gerrard can hand on heart be referred to as a footballer notorious for his cheating? He doesnt get excused for being more convincing than the examples I gave. Im just illustrating the gulf in the general level of sportsmanship between Gerrard and the individuals I previously mentioned.

He is a class C simulator i.e. frowned upon, but generally expected of any professional attacking player of any nationality. Barnes Lineker Owen Shearer all did this to a certain extent. If a player is in the box bearing down on goal with only keeper to beat and is nudged slightly and goes down its stretching things a bit to call that cheating.

But the Class A examples I gave above are attacks to the integrity of the game itself and seek to victimise fellow individual players and even fans on an utterly shameless level. You cant seriously put Gerrard in this category.

Even the reaction of Bellamy and Suarez with the coin throwing tells a story. The British player just shrugs and laughs whilst Suarez has to make a fuss LOOK AT THIS COIN THAT HAS BEEN THROWN AT ME OOHH YOU MUST BAN SOMEONE. Im surprised he didnt start rolling about on the floor trying to get Everton fans in trouble too but fair play to him for not tarnishing himself any further I suppose.

Moonlight shadow -
Thank you – I dedicate this to Al Murray Pub Landlord and Mr T in the Snickers ad with the tank

Comment by ooh aah 2011-10-05 18:22:15

Well Gerrard is usually refered to by the English football media as being world class, which he clearly isn't, so however he is refered to is probably not very reliable. Amongst those that aren't completely blinkered I'd say there's an acknowledgement that he's no stranger to taking a dive. He's certainly more guilty of it than Lineker, and probably even Owen.

Comment by Broon 2011-10-06 00:03:11

I also think you dragged Tevez into this article unnecessarily, and trying to claim he was making some kind of principled strike decision is really grabbing at straws to find a contrarian stance.

HOWEVER I do agree with a lot of the general jist of the article. A few years ago, the Lithuania player Saulius Mikolunas was retrospectively punished by UEFA with a two-match ban after winning a penalty with a dive against Scotland.

Why hasn't that become a routine occurrence?

Why can't national football associations ask every referee to watch a match a week on video (a match they didn't referee live, I mean), and make recommendations: for cards to be rescinded if they are seen to be too harsh; and for suspensions to be given to players who have clearly dived, with much harsher suspensions given to players who actually benefited from the dive? We seem to already have something like this, arbitrarily effected, but nothing relating to the specific crime of diving. Why can't every obvious dive be punished?

Comment by reddybrek 2011-10-06 13:00:07

Gerrard captained and dragged a fairly mediocre Liverpool team all the way to the Champions League trophy. This is considered by some to be the actions of a world class player seeing as how he didnt look too sad sharing a pitch and competing well with the likes of Kaka Rivaldo Ballack Pirlo etc.

Im sure Blatter and Platini and everyone else who draws any meaning from the sub eurovision song contest that is now international football couldnt begin to comprehend the fact that removed from FIFAs corrupt stench the odd English player seems to shine here and there.

Blasphemy I know to the likes of almighty Tevez who we must all defend to the hilt no matter what he did or didnt do or lied to cover up his tracks about. Lost in translation? How long has he played football here?

Get on the field. Quite an easy command to fulfil not exactly the height of linguistic mystery

Comment by FCKarl 2011-10-08 03:20:10

I'd like to see an article that covers the sore loser mentality one often does indeed see from Latin teams. Example: The Argentine players surrounding the linesman after the early false goal (blatantly offside) against Mexico in South Africa. 8 or 9 Argie players are right there in the faces of the linesman and then the ref to get (through physical presence, intimidation, shouting, cavorting) the decision they wish.

Flash back to this same group of sore losers after the Germany - Argentina quarterfinal in World Cup 2006. Penalties are over; the Argies lose on penalties because they shot worse that 15 year old srubs at Lehman. No matter. The game is over, but Argentina must protest. The bench is cleared.

What's with these sore losers? What is deficient in their human make-up? No, one cannot excuse it away. You play hard and with your heart to win, but if it does not work out, you offer your hand in grace and sportsmanship at the end to your opponents.

That's why everyone is rightfully Real Madrid bashing and specifically Jose Mourinho bashing after their recent lost (5-6 weeks ago) in Barcelona.

Just lose with quiet dignity. And resolve to work hard so that next time your come out on top.

There should be lots of discussion on this. After all, we've all see the YouTube or Bizarre Sports Clips from somewhere in South America where a referee or offending player is literally running for his life with players, coaches, fans, and even security personnel chasing him down.

This is so common now as to be a non-event when it reoccurs. Oh another Uruguayan kung fu kicked in the chest after the match by an Argie opponent? Ho hum.

Comment by CraigW 2011-10-10 02:44:06

Problems:

1. Diving is hard to assess right in realtime (for the ref) esp when foreign players (from EPL pov) throw themselves into it.

2. Because refs only have the game changing all-or-nothing sending off alternative, players will exploit this with timewasting, repeated minor infringements, pressure on ref etc.

3. Because refs only have the game changing all-or-nothing penalty alternative, defensive players will exploit this with infringements in the penalty area at set pieces etc.

4. Suarez-handball-on-line type incidents

Solutions

1. Post-match review with substantive fines and, more importantly, suspensions. Including for exaggerating an actual foul.

2. "Technical" dismissals where the player is sent off but can be replaced. So the ref can send off any player that gets in his face, wastes time, etc, but it's still 11 v 11.

3. Not sure what to do about this.

4. Not an issue. Very rarely happens, and even if it does, the other team would usually end up with a penalty goal and a player advantage. Possibly could introduce the "penalty goal" (in the rugby sense) but it would rarely get used.

Monetary motivation may cause, but doesn't excuse, unethical behaviour. Refer also: bankers etc. Suarez often cheats. Pity as he's a cracking player.

Craig.

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