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Dangerous tackles deserve harsher suspensions

Disproportionate bans in Italy

icon refs18 April ~ In the dying seconds of Inter's 2-1 home defeat to Juventus on Easter Saturday, Esteban Cambiasso committed a potentially career-threatening foul on Juventus's Sebastian Giovinco. Play was by the left corner flag at the Inter end with no danger threatening when Cambiasso clattered in with his studs up. This was a very uncharacteristic act from a player who had never been sent off in his 276 games for Inter, and was probably the result of frustration. Before leaving the field after the red card, Cambiasso apologised and checked on Giovinco's condition.

After the game he also went into the Juventus dressing room, as well as apologising publicly on TV. Fortunately, Giovinco escaped with bruising and was able to play a part in Juventus' 2-0 defeat in Munich three days later.

Cambiasso was handed a one match suspension and it was said that the referee had ruled his foul "serious" but not "dangerous" in his written report. We were also told that Cambiasso's contrition and his previously almost exemplary record were taken into consideration.

But was that enough? What if Giovinco's injury had not been mere bruising but cruciate ligament damage, which it easily could have been? More to the point, it is quite possible that had Cambiasso been sent off for, say, ironically applauding the referee, he would have received a two match ban. It has happened, at least here in Italy, and it is surely a nonsense.

It is time, when handing out suspensions following red cards, to make a distinction between those brandished for dissent in its various forms, or for persistent but not violent foul play leading to two yellow cards, and those that result from foul play that risks inflicting serious injury on an opponent. Dissent needs to be punished but words never ended anyone's career. Therefore if a red card for dissent results in a one match ban, violent play should automatically rule a player out for at least two games – possibly more depending on the severity of the offence.

Some will argue that football is a contact sport and that even if every player played with the best of intentions, there would always be injuries. They are right, up to a point. But most of us can recognise a malicious challenge and referees worth their salt should be able to do so. If we fall back on the "it's a man's game" argument, we risk giving hatchet men a licence to commit GBH.

The game now is much less violent than it used to be. Payers such as notorious Juventus full-back Claudio Gentile would not last five minutes if they played today as they did 30 years ago. But there is still unacceptable violence in the game. One form of it is the tendency of players, when going for headers, to elbow opponents in the face. It is often excused as something that the dynamics of a heading duel render physiologically unavoidable but I do not remember it happening when I started watching football nearly 60 years ago. It seems like a not very subtle form of intimidation and should be taken more seriously because its effects can be potentially as damaging as those of tackles like Cambiasso's.

Football has made giant strides in the reduction of violent play. It could move further towards its elimination if it adopted the principle that physical violence on the field must always be punished much more severely than dissent. Richard Mason

Comment on 08-04-2013 13:13:35 by Arthur Nibble #783538
"The game now is much less violent than it used to be".

Try watching Burnham of the Southern League Division 1 Central, who are renowned for overly physical football and Roy Keane-style anger management with officials. Less than ten minutes into their recent away game there, Ashford Town (Middlesex) midfielder Jack Mullan suffered a broken leg, broken ankle, dislocated ankle and shattered ligaments from a challenge that wasn't even red-carded. Thinking that meant carte blanche to try it again, less than ten minutes later, a similar Burnham challenge - though, thankfully, with no injury to the Ashford player - was attempted and it got the card the first challenge should have earned.
Comment on 09-04-2013 04:38:43 by madmickyf #784012
Agree 100% percent. Unfortunately there seem to be a lot of refs who think that injury to their ego by a player making a comment is a more serious offence than a studs up tackle on another player.
Comment on 10-04-2013 14:09:05 by geobra #784715
Here are some of the decisions following last weekend's matches in Italy:

(1) Mario Balotelli is the object of racial chants against Fiorentina, but referee Tagliavento does nothing when he complains.

(2) Mario Balotelli 'insults' a goal judge after the game. Gets a 2-game suspension, plus one more for reaching 4 yellow cards.

(3) Fiorentina fined a derisory 20,000 euros for the racial chanting.

(4) Atalanta's Cristian Raimondi reacts to provocation by Inter's Ezequiel Schelotto with a punch in the ribs. Schelotto goes down clutching his face. Raimondi gets a 3-match suspension.

(5) In the chaotic scenes following the Inter v Atalanta game, a member of the Inter coaching staff enters the field with intentions that are anything but peaceful. Atalanta's Carlos Carmona lands a punch on him. He gets a 3-match ban.

It's not that I actually quarrel with these decisions as such, and I cannot for the life of me understand why Atalanta's players couldn't just celebrate a famous victory under the 'curva' which housed their fans.

But at the same time, in comparison with the 1-match ban handed out to Cambiasso, these decisions are ridiculously out of proportion. How can you have any faith in a system whose verdicts appear to contradict any form of logic?
Comment on 13-04-2013 11:30:25 by geobra #786089
In Italy (again), a country where the age of criminal responsibility is fixed at 14, a 13-year-old boy who attacked a referee when shown a red card has been suspended for 32 months. That's more than most of the professionals involved in illegal betting and match fixing got. It's clear that what the boy did was deplorable and that he needs to be taught a severe lesson, but given his age his punishment is surely out of all proportion. Once again one can only scratch one's head and wonder what thought processes lead to these decisions.

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