Authorities don't clear the innocent
4 September ~ The second round of matches in Serie A highlighted some of the current contradictions and peculiarities of Italian football. For several years TV evidence has been allowed in cases where acts of violence have escaped the notice of the official but the idea that it might also be used to correct blatant injustices remains taboo. Juventus's 4-1 win at Udinese was effectively decided after 15 minutes, when home goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic was sent off for an alleged professional foul and Arturo Vidal scored the subsequent penalty. The dynamics of the incident show that Brkic was innocent of any wrongdoing.
As Sebastian Giovinco chased Andrea Pirlo's lob and Brkic came to meet him, Giovinco was pushed from behind by Udinese's Brazilian defender Danilo. His momentum caused him to collide with the keeper, who could hardly disappear into thin air and was only doing his job. It is also extremely doubtful that the collision deprived Giovinco of a clear goalscoring opportunity. If there was any justice, without altering the result on the field, Brkic's red card would be rescinded.
This will not happen and he will be suspended for something that everyone knows he did not do, including those responsible for handing down the punishment. The authorities are terrified of admitting publicly that a referee's decision was wrong, while they are happy to act in cases where no decision was taken. It is illogical to use TV evidence to punish the guilty but not to clear the innocent. It should be used for both or not at all but always with the proviso that the result is sacrosanct.
In Saturday's 3-1 win by Milan in Bologna a clear dive by Milan's new striker, Giampaolo Pazzini, earned them an early penalty. Having pushed Bologna defender Nicolo Cherubin and caused him to stumble, Pazzini fell over without being touched. In this case, again without altering the result, he should be punished for simulation. Both matches suggest that controversy will not go away just because games are now controlled by a team of six. Touch judges Andrea Gervasoni, at Bologna, and Nicola Rizzoli, at Udine, both failed to interpret key incidents correctly.
Two other games deserve a mention for different reasons. Napoli beat Fiorentina 2-1 on a surface more suitable for beach soccer. It would have been a disgrace at an English non-League ground in January. At a top European club at the beginning of September it is totally unacceptable. The state of the pitch is being blamed on the hot summer (in Naples!) and a virus but the condition has been known for several weeks and nothing has been done so far to remedy it. If referee Antonio Damato had done his job properly he would have ruled the pitch unfit for play, though in reality the decision should already have been taken higher up.
Cagliari and Atalanta drew 1-1 on a perfect surface but in a building site without supporters. Cagliari's new stadium is being built in the city of Quartu Sant'Elena but as yet it is not ready to admit spectators. Cagliari named Trieste as the venue for their first four home games but during the week players threatened to strike if they could not play in Sardinia. The local authorities declared the building site fit to hold a game but without spectators and the league caved in provided that Atalanta agreed.
A stadium not ready to hold spectators is also not ready to host matches. Obviously the buffoons who are currently in charge of Italian football think otherwise and are prepared to present to the watching world a beach in Napoli's San Paolo Stadium and the desolation of empty seats in Sardinia. One day we might be led by people who understand that football needs spectators if it is to have any meaning and level playing fields if it is to offer them a decent spectacle in return for their money. Richard Mason