The horrific stamping by Tottenham Hotspur player Giovani Lo Celso on Chelsea’s César Azpilicueta in a recent English Premier League (PL) game deserved nothing short of a red card, but Lo Celso got away scot-free in what has been seen as one of the most outrageous conclusions by the video assistance referee (VAR), or, to be more specific, the referee operating the system.
My immediate reaction was that it should be a definite red card. I couldn’t understand why it took so long for the ref to arrive at a decision. The referee controlling the VAR deliberated for a long time and arrived at a nothing decision. Then, to make matters worse, come out 10 minutes or so later and said they had made a mistake. In other words, it should have been a red card. Dear oh dear! What is happening with PL refereeing?
The Professional Games Match Officials Limited, the body responsible for the way the game is officiated, has since admitted that Lo Celso should have been sent off for the tackle.
It said: “The view of Professional Games Match Officials Limited is that it should have been a red card as it ticked the boxes – intensity and point of contact.
“But it’s a human being making the subjective decision and he didn’t think it was a red card,” it added.
Chelsea captain Azpilicueta and his manager Frank Lampard were left astounded by the decision.
Azpilicueta said: “I’m not a player who likes to be on the floor. I know I’m tough and I make fouls, but this wasn’t my fault. It was a clear stamp on my shin; I felt it right away.”
What’s even worse, in my opinion, is that the fourth official, Kevin Friend, was almost on top of it. Why didn’t he speak to referee Michael Oliver? Why didn’t the assistant on that side, who couldn’t have been too far away, signal the referee?
And why didn’t Oliver consult the pitch-side monitor as per Fifa’s directive?
I want to state here, as I have done many times in the past, that I’m not out to bash match officials, but this decision beggars belief and shines an even brighter spotlight on them and their competency to handle games.
Players getting booked
There has been lots of criticism of Mamelodi Sundowns and particularly their coach Pitso Mosimane and some of his players on this issue.
In a recent game, it is alleged that Mosimane instructed the players to get themselves yellow-carded so they could serve out suspensions and therefore be rested and available for games in the run-up to the end of the season.
All four players – Gastón Sirino, Hlompho Kekana, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Mosa Lebusa – were sitting on three yellow cards and allegedly intentionally ensured they were booked in the 2-1 win over Bloemfontein Celtic recently.
I’ve been inundated with telephone calls and requests to go on radio and television to clarify if this is illegal.
From a refereeing point of view, there is nothing that the referee can do to eradicate this kind of behaviour.
The ref must just do his or her job according to the laws of the game and punish, where appropriate, players who deliberately break the law.
I saw a report in which Sergio Ramos, the captain of Real Madrid, was served with a two-game ban instead of the mandatory one for his alleged deliberate attempt to get booked so he could serve his ban before more important games.
There is a clause in last year’s edition of the Fifa disciplinary code that reads as follows:
Misconduct of players and officials
Players and officials shall be suspended for misconduct as specified below and may be fined accordingly (I’m just quoting the relevant one here):
- “At least one match for deliberately receiving a yellow or red card, for example, in order to be suspended for an upcoming match and to ultimately have a clean record.”
So referees have no control over this issue. It’s the responsibility of the league or football association in each country to deal with it.
Please feel free to make comments or ask questions on this and other issues.
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