Rules and Regs
If you want to win games, you must not only know the laws of the game – you must master them.
If you observe FC Barcelona, for example, you’ll notice that the Barca players never argue with the referees – and they are masters of the offside call. Messi, Pedro, Villa and company know precisely how to time their runs past defenders just as Iniesta or Xavi slip through-balls into the gaps for them, resulting in deadly break-aways on goal. These timed runs must be rehearsed in practice repeatedly. Inzaghi from Milan was also a master of the timed run – that often appears to be offside, but in fact is not because the run begins just as the pass from the midfielder is made!
But FC Barcelona players, unfortunately, are also masters at drawing fouls by play-acting and faking injuries (this is no exaggeration – consider Dani Alves’ dramatics that drew a red card against Pepe in the second Champions league meeting between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid). Alves’ was not injured – he came back within minutes after the altercation to rejoin his squad – and yet, if you watch the replay of Pepe’s foul it looks like Alves broke a leg! The timing of the play-acted dive was also impeccable.
I have embedded a video clip of Barcelona’s play-acting “mastery” for your reference on this page. I am not endorsing such behavior by players or teams. On the contrary, I agree with Tottenham Hotspurs’ coach Harry Redknapp’s comments about this match, in which he slammed both teams for a horrible display of play-acting.
In his column for British tabloid The Sun, the Tottenham manager wrote the following
It seems the Beautiful Game suddenly turned ugly this week with that horrible, disgraceful rubbish we witnessed in Madrid…I’d been excited all day in anticipation of the Real Madrid v Barcelona Champions League semi-final. It was going to be a real treat. But afterwards the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Play-acting, fouling, baiting the referee – cheating, basically. The players lost the plot. People I know who absolutely love football turned off their TVs in disgust at what was going on. I honestly believe you would never see a game like that in England. English crowds wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behaviour from players of the opposition, or indeed their own team…And, as a manager, I certainly would not want to be involved in any of that rubbish.
The saddest part about all this is that the current officiating system rewards teams that encourage this type of behavior instead of punishing them for it.
Today more than ever, players must be extremely keen about the rules not only to avoid ejections but also to know the weaknesses of officials so that they do not penalize themselves or their teams. As an active referee myself with over 15 years of experience, I will share with you one critical fact: referees often make mistakes. Even at the highest levels, the officiating system is very flawed. And without the incorporation video replays, the officiating system will remain very flawed. It is quite astounding that while FIFA, UEFA, teams and players make millions from advertising, sponsorships, TV rights as well as salaries – and now that we have access to digital video technology – that we are still in the stone age as far as not being able to review critical deciding moments of play.
As far as I’m concerned, the powers that be (namely the Internation Football Association Board, FIFA and UEFA) should be ashamed of themselves for putting players and fans through such trauma. Every World Cup and Champions League competition is filled with simply dreadful calls made by referees. As Redknapp suggests, it makes you simply want to turn off your TV. I have always felt for the players more than anyone else when it comes to officiating matters. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and try to do what’s fair for the players. Until video replays are integrated one simply can’t take the governing and officiating boards seriously.
Yet, not all officiating decisions are evil. The laws of the game are designed first and foremost to ensure the safety of the players. But there are many shades and interpretations of the rules by officials who come from very diverse backgrounds and experience levels.
This section includes video clips, valuable tips and lessons for players and coaches who are interested in competing fairly while trying to minimize surprises and “bad” calls from referees.
As always, I welcome your feedback on these matters, so feel free to share your opinions with us!