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Friedel escape an appalling decision by FA
by Paul Gardner, March 26th, 2009 8:01AM

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By Paul Gardner

Goalkeepers. Once again getting special treatment. This time it's Brad Friedel. An American keeper who has had -- continues to have -- a wonderful career in the English Premier League. Unquestionably one of the top goalkeepers in the league, widely respected as the consummate professional.

I can add my own admiration here -- for it was Friedel who started the only academy that I know of where the boys were not charged a hefty fee. They were not charged at all -- that was Friedel's aim. If things haven't quite worked out as planned, that in no way diminishes the nobility of Friedel's vision.

In the EPL, Friedel is in pursuit of a remarkable record: he has played 182 consecutive games -- more than anyone else - and is obviously in line to become the first-ever player to reach the 200 mark. Friedel is now well ahead of his nearest competitor, David James, who has 166 consecutive appearances. The fact that both are goalkeepers tells you something about playing that position -- I'll leave you to work it out.

But this past weekend, Friedel's run appeared to have come to a close when he was red-carded during Aston Villa's disastrous 0-5 loss to Liverpool. Friedel had already let in four goals when he brought down Fernando Torres -- penalty kick and red card to Friedel said referee Martin Atkinson. The red card meant an automatic one-game suspension for Friedel -- and goodbye to his hopes for a 200-game record.

But all was not lost. No doubt aware that red cards to goalkeepers are rare indeed, Friedel appealed to the Football Association, and in no time at all, the red card was canceled. Friedel's run of games will continue, uninterrupted.

This business of appealing against red cards seems to be becoming habitual in England. Earlier this season, John Terry -- with high-powered legal backing -- got a red-card reversed. On the same day that Friedel was pronounced innocent another red card (to Sunderland's defender George McCartney) was also overturned.

The Terry incident was particularly disturbing, for Terry's foul was blatant, even dangerous. No matter, he got off. And now the Friedel escape -- and I'm sorry to say, this is another appalling decision by the FA.

This one, in fact, is so bad that the top referees -- part of the Professional Game Match Officials, Ltd -- have reportedly written to the FA demanding an explanation. That is a highly unusual occurrence.

The only explanation forthcoming is that the FA accepted Friedel's plea that he was actually trying to get out of Torres' way. This is such pathetically absurd nonsense that it should have been quickly thrown out.

Consider: Torres dribbles the ball into the penalty area -- Friedel comes out and goes to ground to snare the ball -- he doesn't get it because his timing is atrocious -- Torres gets there first, plays the ball -- and immediately and unavoidably crashes into Friedel's body. The collision -- which obviously stopped Torres from continuing his action -- was caused entirely by Friedel's misjudgment. A clear foul, a clear denial of a scoring opportunity for Torres. The replays show Friedel -- on the ground -- turning his back as Torres collides with him. Trying to get out of the way? At a pinch you could interpret it that way. But so what? His efforts were unsuccessful -- were bound to be unsuccessful -- because there was no time or space for Friedel to move in.

And we got Villa's coach, Martin O'Neill, confirming what one always suspects -- that coaches simply do not know the rules of the game: This is O'Neill: "From Brad's viewpoint, I don't think he went out and made a deliberate attempt to upend him [Torres]." This business of being "deliberate," of "intention" was taken out of the rules over 10 years ago. It is irrelevant.

What matters is whether Friedel caused the collision, whether he was reckless in doing so -- and, in this case -- did he prevent a clear scoring opportunity? The answer to all three questions is obviously Yes.

How the FA can accept Friedel's lame excuse -- and use it to undermine the referee, who made the correct call -- certainly does need an explanation.

Rescinding red cards should not be this easy. This was a case of referee Atkinson's opinion against Friedel's explanation. Atkinson's case was far stronger -- yet the FA belittles him. And yet again, it's a defender (the other two cases mentioned above were also defenders) who benefits.

The deeper danger, of course, is that EPL referees will be loath to give red cards -- especially to goalkeepers. Why run the risk of public humiliation when the card is rescinded? Better to let the fouling continue.

 



0 comments
  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 26, 2009 at 8:27 a.m.
    While Gardner's assessment if the situation is accurate, I think exceptions on automatic red cards should be made for goalkeepers. The problem is that almost by definition the goalkeeper is the last man, so a much higher percentage of fouls they commit end up being red card offenses. And with most goalkeeper offenses, they're committed in the box anyway so the person denied the goal scoring opportunity will be awarded a penalty kick, which essentially trades one goal scoring opportunity for another (so justice is done). The automatic red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity was implemented to stop the "professional foul", where a player would deliberately foul an offensive player, often just prior to that player's entry into the penalty area, because the defender made the conscious decision that a free kick and yellow card were worth stopping a goal scoring opportunity. The red card rightfully changed that calculation. But many goal keeper red cards are for errors in judgement or timing, not deliberate decisions to break the rules. Perhaps FIFA should reinstate the requirement that to issue a red card for stopping a goal scoring opportunity the foul should be deliberate.

  1. Austin Gomez
    commented on: March 26, 2009 at 11:26 a.m.
    RUBBISH and HOGWASH to this Decision! A RED Card is a RED Card and unless the FIFA's International Board changes its Laws' written words and interpretations, a "Denial of a Goal-Scoring Opportunity" by a defensive player (ber that player be the team's 'outfield' player or 'Keeper: 11 Players still make a collective Team), this "DOGSO" type-ruling must NOT be changed! REFEREE DECISONS ARE and SHOULD BE FINAL ! ! ! And as the Laws-of-the-Game assertively state that any defensive player who commits such an offense (in whatever defensive part of the field) must be issued a RED Card and thus, at least, an automatic 1-game suspenison must be given............it seems the FA wants to "change the rules in mid-stream. If this Association keeps rescinding the Referees' RC rulings, the REF will subconsciously not issue any more RCs (because their thinking is that they will be OVERTUTRNED eventually by this legal administrative body) AND now "chaos" will reign! Bah, Humbug!

  1. Caroline Lambert
    commented on: March 26, 2009 at 12:11 p.m.
    There were two players involved in this collision. Doesn't anyone consider what the other player was doing? As Torres approached Friedel, he tapped the ball to his left. My initial thought was that he was going to step to his left, around Friedel, catch up with the ball and knock it into the net. Instead, he stepped ever-so-slightly to the right so that he would collide with Friedel. As he walked away he had a very self satisfied smirk on his face. Friedel could not have got out of the way if, as it seems, Torres was deliberately running into him. I don't think the red card should have been repealed, because that makes a joke out of the referees - the referee made the best decision he could with what he saw at the time. So, although I can see why the decision might be overturned, it follows and reinforces a distasteful trend.

  1. John Hofmann
    commented on: March 26, 2009 at 12:47 p.m.
    Caroline Lambert's description of the play, and her focus on the part Torres played, is interesting because, as I recall, another American columnist earlier this week made a similar point...that it appeared to be Torres who actually precipitated the contact and might well have been considered the guilty party in this matter. I didn't see the incident and can't argue either way.

  1. Futbol Genio
    commented on: March 27, 2009 at 7:41 a.m.
    Paul Gardner is absolutely wrong in his commentary on Brad Friedel's red card. He, obviously, did not take the time out to review the incident on video. There should not be any drama for this incident. Ref made an honest mistake..., The player that honestly hurts another player in lawful play should not get a card just because the other player was unintentionally injured...., In this case, Torres wasn't even injured. He had a bad touch that made the ball go too far and Friedel was entitled to it inside his 18 box. Friedel left his goal line and stayed in the 18 box. Torres took an awful touch and the ball bounded too far ahead of him. His various injuries no doubt contributed to this poor touch, because he is a great player. As Freidel came out, he had the choice of attacking the ball with his hands and head, but he avoided this option, All other goaltenders would have done exactly this and due to Torres' poor touch would have gotten the ball. Friedel went down to his knees and was in place for a few seconds as Torres crashed into Freidel. Freidel did not move his legs -- he was stationary --and merely turned his head to avoid a collision with his face. NO one blames him...., or was to blame for the collision other than a lousy touch by an oft injured Torres. Torres flew over Freidel's shoulder because Re-Coker corraled him in and he couldn't move to his left. He hit Freidel and not the other way around. Friedel did nothing wrong because he was stationary in his 18 box, and the forward can't go through him to chase a ball that was poorly trapped and hit past Friedel on it way OUT. This should have been a no call, or at worse a yellow card (just because the forward tumbled on the shoulder of the unwitting and overly polite goalie). Nothing that Freidel could have done to change the outcome, other than attack the ball like every other goalie would have in England. By not being reckless, Freidel received the red card, and it SHOULD have been overturned. WATCH THE CLIP OF THE COLLISION AGAIN -- SEE FREIDEL'S STATIONARY POSITION AND FACE-- NO INTENT TO INJURE OR DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN STAND HIS GROUND IN HIS 18 BOX -- BRAVO FOR HIM!!


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