THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Two serious injuries recently highlight contrast of punishments in the game

icon fouling21 September ~ It is only September and already for two players with Champions League clubs, Luke Shaw of Manchester United and Rafinha of Barcelona, the season is almost certainly over as a result of two brutal tackles from behind. I wrote about a similar tackle on Giuseppe Rossi a few years ago expressing fears that perhaps the hatchet men of the past were on the way back. It seems that the lesson of that tackle has not been learnt.

I am under the impression that referees have instructions to punish tackles from behind with a red card even when the tackler wins the ball. The reasoning is impeccable. A tackle from behind is always dangerous, and anything that is intrinsically dangerous, even if it leads to winning the ball, should be eliminated from the game. And when, as is often the case, the player being tackled is not posing any threat, crashing into him from behind serves no purpose other than to intimidate him. Furthermore, the risk of serious injury is greater now that the game is so fast and the impact therefore more violent.

If we take the two cases from this round of Champions League games, it is incredible that Nicola Rizzoli, who refereed the last World Cup final, took no action against Héctor Moreno, not even a yellow card. But even if he did not see the foul, what about his assistants, the linesman and the man on the goal line? I suppose we must believe that neither of them saw anything either, which makes you wonder why it is necessary to have six officials if none of them manages to see an incident as blatant as this one. As Rizzoli has now admitted that he didn’t see the foul, he is also saying that it did take place. It is surely therefore incumbent on UEFA to take retrospective disciplinary action against Moreno, though it is very unlikely that they will.

As for Radja Nainggolan and his foul on Rafinha, he has form. He was involved in a similar incident in March with Chievo’s Federico Mattiello who ended up with a double leg break. (Admittedly Mattiello described it as something that happens in football and appears to bear no grudge against Nainggolan, but players often seem to do that.) Nainggolan is a notoriously hard player who is always only a tackle away from causing an injury like the one suffered by Rafinha. Once again it beggars belief that he received only a yellow card.

As has been pointed out by several bloggers in Italy, you say one word out of place to a referee and you are suspended for three games. But put a player out of the game for the rest of the season and thanks to the same referee you are free to play in your club’s next game. Once again, UEFA should surely take retrospective action, but it is extremely unlikely that they will.

Nainggolan will probably now have a hard time both with referees and opposing fans. But what we really need is a clarification from referees’ chiefs, both nationally and internationally, as to why their members are so reluctant to apply one of the Laws of the Game.

We also need a re-enactment of what happened on August 18, 1971 when, in an attempt to stamp out rampant thuggery, English referees were secretly told to clamp down and the result was a rash of sendings off in Division One. Ironically, among them was one of the main victims of the thugs: George Best. Richard Mason

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