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The Lament of the Lousy Losers
by Paul Gardner, March 10th, 2011 11:42PM

MOST READ
TAGS:  england, uefa champions league


By Paul Gardner

It's a sickening state of affairs for soccer when, within the space of a few days, two of the sport's top coaches brazenly advertise the fact that they are appallingly bad losers.

Two coaches from the English Premier League (neither of them English as it happens, but that’s the EPL for you): Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, and Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson (you can, should you so wish, give him his toy title of Sir Alex -- I prefer not to).

Both coaches are enduring a pretty bumpy moment. Their teams are not operating as they should, and crucial games are being lost or only tied. Ferguson first: just five weeks ago, it seemed clear sailing for ManU to race away with the EPL title. Then came a totally unexpected loss at bottom-of-the-standings Wolves. It was quickly followed by two more losses at Chelsea and Liverpool, and ManU’s lead over Arsenal at the top of the standings is now only three points -- and Arsenal has a game in hand.

The Chelsea loss led to Ferguson making derogatory comments about the referee, Martin Atkinson. The strong implication of Ferguson’s words was that Atkinson was not an impartial referee. The English FA has reacted by charging Ferguson with “improper conduct” -- and Ferguson has announced that he will contest the charge.

In the meantime, Ferguson imposed a total ban -- for himself and everyone else, including players -- on talking to the media after the loss to Liverpool. It has become something of a habit for Ferguson to go after the referee when his team loses games. Or even when they win -- in 2008 he accosted referee Mike Dean on the field after a victory over Hull City when he thought Dean had got a number of decisions wrong.

In 2009, in a preview of the current dispute, Ferguson weighed into Atkinson after a loss to Chelsea -- the FA investigated and took no action. But the FA did act when Ferguson, in the same year, criticized referee Alan Wiley as being “not fit” after ManU had barely squeaked a 2-2 tie with Man City. That landed Ferguson with a four-game ban -- two were served immediately, the other two were suspended, but should Ferguson be found guilty on the current charge, those two games will be added to any punishment he may receive.

Looking at Ferguson’s most recent criticism of Atkinson -- that he should have ejected Chelsea’s David Luiz, and that the penalty kick that won the game for Chelsea was “soft -- Ferguson was surely correct on Luiz, but the penalty argument is fatuous -- what coach ever agreed with a PK call against his own team?

Or a red card call, for that matter. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, for all its undoubted devotion to skillful and attractive soccer, collects more red cards than most teams. The latest came against Barcelona on Tuesday. This red was the now notorious second yellow to Robin van Persie -- the one that reduced Arsenal to 10 men, the one that, according to Wenger, prevented Arsenal from advancing in the Champions League.

Referee Massimo Busacca decided that van Persie was guilty of belting the ball into the sign boards in frustration at being called offside. Which Busacca evidently interpreted as time-wasting. No, no said van Persie, I didn’t hear your whistle -- how could I with all these 95,000 fans yelling their heads off? That has to go down as one of the silliest get-outs yet. Just for that one moment in this game the ref’s whistle was inaudible? Because at no other time was there any suggestion, from any one, of crowd noise being a problem. That particular whistle, for what it’s worth, was very audible on the telecast.

But Wenger rants on about Busacca’s decision being “wrong” -- he even claims that UEFA should apologize for it. So everyone is against poor Arsenal. According to Wenger, “the first leg was fantastic.” He’s talking about the game in London, which Arsenal won 2-1. He could, of course, have admitted that the referee in that game made a dreadful error in nixing a perfectly valid Lionel Messi goal. But he didn’t -- just as Barcelona did not make a big deal of it. But the second leg, it seems, was “destroyed” by a call that Wenger didn’t like.

Frankly, humbug. Van Persie’s wild kick at the ball had the stamp of a frustrated player reacting instantly to a whistle he wished he hadn’t heard. Van Persie, already on a yellow, had looked to be in a nervously volatile mood -- so much so that TV commentator Graeme Souness had delivered his halftime wisdom that Wenger should get him off the field.

Wenger left him on. He lasted 11 minutes of the second half. Then came the red card, and Wenger asks us to believe that that was what lost the game for Arsenal. A decidedly flimsy claim, to put it mildly. We are, it seems, to forget that Arsenal did not conjure up a single shot on goal in the entire game, that it managed only 32 percent possession, that -- while the game was still 11 vs. 11 - it was virtually over-run by Barcelona, that the maligned referee Busacca allowed defender Laurent Koscielny to stay on the field, even though he clearly invited a second-yellow card on two occasions. And so on. A typical soccer game, with enough dodgy referee calls to exercise both coaches.

The actions and the words of both Ferguson and Wenger are deplorable. Ferguson, fearing that the EPL title is slipping away from his team, lands on the referees, yet avoids criticizing his own player, Wayne Rooney, who got away, unpunished, with an elbow to the face of Wigan’s James McCarthy. Wenger, too, blames the referee as Arsenal is knocked out of the Champions League; his player, van Persie, did nothing wrong -- but Wenger has become famous for never having seen any fouls committed by his own players.

So these are the top coaches, the shining examples of their profession, both presenting a squalid image as thoroughly bad losers. They didn’t lose the games -- the referees robbed them. Credit to their opponents? Forget that, too.

Sadly, we are getting used to this sort of thing. Jose Mourinho has shown the way. Back in 2005, when Mourinho’s Chelsea was beaten by Barcelona, his vicious criticism of referee Anders Frisk led to Frisk retiring from the game when he decided that he didn’t need the abuse and the threats encouraged by Mourinho’s vendetta.

Sportsmanship? Fair play? Ferguson and Wenger should be ashamed. Indeed, they were shamed on Thursday, by the AC Milan CEO, Adriano Galliani. After Milan had been knocked out of the Champions League by Tottenham in a game that Milan had dominated and in which it had been denied a crucial goal on a very close goal-line call by the referee, Galliani had this to say: “We were five centimeters from scoring ... We need to have the maturity to accept this loss ...”

Just a few calm words -- really, all that are necessary to silence the torrents of venomous verbiage spewed out by Ferguson and Wenger. The profession of coaching was, perhaps, once upon a time, a creditable one, or at least a credible one. Today it struggles to be either.

Credibility? Week after week we listen to the same corny old explanations for games lost, the same vapid boasts about games won, the tinpot tactical explanations and the evasions and the excuses, and we watch the increasingly frenetic sideline leapings and cavortings of those who want, desperately, to be noticed. None of that is particularly honorable.

Galliani is not a coach, so he is relatively free from the constraints of this benighted profession. His statement encompasses sportsmanship and fair play, where Ferguson and Wenger have trampled all over those qualities. In addition, Galliani’s words have something that the celebrity coaches seem to shun. Seem to want to shun. Dignity.



0 comments
  1. tim adams
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 12:52 a.m.
    Listen obviously you don't know what the hell you are talking about. First of all the Ref was 50 meters away from the play making it very difficult to hear the whistle. Secondly Van persie shot the ball exactly 1 second after the whistle was blown. thirdly, RVP never stopped and looked back - it was a continuos motion. Fourthly absolutely no time was waisted only after the red card was shown and everybody and their grandmother contested it. I bet you have never played soccer before. Nothing wrong with being a bad loser - it just goes to show how much you care about winning and not the ridiculous paychecks that professional athletes receive. get a grip!

  1. Chris Mitchell
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 4:47 a.m.
    If I was your teacher, I'd give this a D for lazy journalism. Here's what's wrong with your article: "Because at no other time was there any suggestion, from any one, of crowd noise being a problem. That particular whistle, for what it’s worth, was very audible on the telecast." Van Persie wasn't at home listening to the telecast. He was in a noisy stadium in a high-pressure situation and was about to strike the ball. At least 2 strikers were carded in the World Cup for doing the same thing. The inevitable consequence is that strikers who spring the offside trap will have to slow down and look and the ref before taking a shot - which actually happened in the 2006 World Cup to Australian player Mile Sterjovski. "Van Persie’s wild kick at the ball had the stamp of a frustrated player reacting instantly to a whistle he wished he hadn’t heard." Van Persie's wild kick at the ball had the stamp of a player trying to hit his first shot of the whole game, powerfully with his wrong foot. It's called a shot off-target, it happens all the time. "Arsenal, for all its undoubted devotion to skillful and attractive soccer, collects more red cards than most teams." A look at Arsenal's red cards this season reveals what a lazy criticism this is, and why Wenger gets so frustrated. Van Persie was sent off for perhaps the softest double yellow I've ever seen. While no punishment was handed out to Barca players who grabbed Van Persie and Nasri by the throat. Koscielny has been sent off twice this season, once for "preventing a goalscoring opportunity" right next to the sideline 45 yards from goal, and once collecting a second yellow after Torres kicked it into his hand from 50cm away. For a bit of context as to why Arsene is particularly unhappy with refs this season, watch the two apalling refereeing decisions that denied Arsenal a win at Sunderland this weekend. Or watch Carlos Vela yellow-carded for being fouled in the penalty area in the loss to Braga. Or the ridiculous reffing in the 4-4 Newcastle game. I could go on. I dislike Man U, and they've got too many bad calls their way this season, but against Chelsea they were absolutely robbed by the ref. Shocking. Wenger acknowledged that Barca was the best team in the world, but he also made the true statement that until RVP was sent off, Arsenal were winning the tie.

  1. tim francis
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 8:16 a.m.
    We are lucky to have such a keen mind as Paul Gardner's, an often composed mind not often found among frustrated losing sides. Soccer must be one of the most difficult and infuriating games from a player, fan, coach, and referree's perscpective. Mental illness is rampant. The skill and heart required to be successful, and thus SANE, requires almost superhuman cool, when failure is a prevalent occurance: Anyone who can avoid upset and impulsive defensive thinking is almost equally super-human. Paul's edge is brilliant, but sometimes bitingly uncompassionate-but thats his frustration speaking. The call on Van Persie- given the many other violent fouls left uncarded, shooting a ball late in implusive frustration seems a little out of balance--that may be the referee's frustration. In the end, like Paul says, the game was easily Barcelona's deserved win.

  1. marc meijer
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 9:07 a.m.
    I've read with declining interest about nine months worth of articles by Paul Gardner. At first I thought more about the subject and Paul as a journalist was attempting to elicit a stronger reaction from his readers. The more I read, the more I realized that wasn't the case. Either Paul has never played this game at a competitive level and he doesnt really know what he's talking about, or he's a moron. I am tempted to take apart this most recent article but it's pointless. Paul seems an educated individual when it comes to the legal or technical aspects of footy he is on the money. This leads me to believe he has read nearly every book and watched every technical video on the subject. Practical experience eludes him in his writings and this is what I find saddening. He proclaims and the readers who don't know any better take it as truth. Maybe if he co-wrote an article with an actual player, or even asked for guidance from one... Until he gets all his facts right just like a journalist would, all he really is, all he can be is the Perez Hilton of soccer. A mouth piece waiting to be heard by someone, anyone.

  1. Jonny Sinclair
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
    I stopped reading this article as soon as he mentioned 'Sir' being a toy title....Paul, you obviously have no idea. Being knighted is one of the most prestigious accomplishments that can be achieved anywhere in the world....but you don't care because it involves England, so it must be crap, right? I can't believe you still get away with writing this stuff. Are you your own boss?

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.
    I've watched referee Massimo Busacca on several occasions and a majority of his pitch calls lack common sense.

  1. Charles O'Cain
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 11:03 a.m.
    I think we could add a parenthetical `as heard by a lousy listener" to the title of this article which is so full of Mr Gardner's own interpretations of what HE has heard and what HE thinks others must have heard. I think we can begin to pay more attention to his opinions when he too has his KBE (I think we'll be waiting a while(.

  1. Charles w. Coates
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
    I regularly regret signing up for this newsletter and I'm pretty sure you've lost me this time. Does anybody know any good alternatives? Gardner's comments about SAF are shallow and thoughtless and too ignorant to be provocative. I say this as an avid disliker of himself and ManU. As to Wenger, Gardner is free to criticize but not to misrepresent his complaint. Busacca made a preposterous call that changed the game when Arsenal was winning, and I'm pretty sure no sensible person knows or even cares what any side deserved. I also think the widespread and emphatic observation among ex-players that Busacca -- and in this discussion Gardner -- must never have played the game, sure looks relevant. As noted, who can recommend a good alternative to this newsletter or at least to Gardner's column?

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 11:44 a.m.
    I love reading comments from readers that tell us how much they hate Paul Gardner's columns and have done so for years!!! Regarding Paul's supposed lack of playing experience, I can say from CLOSELY WATCHING over thirty years of US soccer that any insights gained from PLAYING US soccer are generally non-existent. Up until very recently US soccer has been technically crude, tactically one-dimensional, and overly physical. It would appear that not having played has a decided advantage.

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.
    Watching the scond game with Barca and Arsenal seemed alot like the first game, Barca controlling the ball on the pitch, the biggest problem was that the ref seemed alittle one side in his decision making. Alvas was carrying a yellow going into this game and within the 15th minute got away with a yellow card offense on Nasri allowing the tempers to inflat. Van Persie shouldn't have been given the second yellow due to the fact the whistle was being blown as he kicked the ball towards the goal or made the attemp to score. As usual the ref's bad decisions invoked the start of a bad game.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.
    Hey folks, everyone, just CHILL!!! As I've said before, time and again, and will say again, the only way we'll get coaches, players, writers, commentators, all self-annointed experts on the Laws of the Game, is to have them put on an official's uniform, and then throw them to the wolves. I bet that there won't be many trakers. So how about it, Paul, coaches/managers/ commentators/players, any one have the abdominal fortitude to put on an official's gear, grab a whistle, flags, cards, etc., and call a game, whether k-league, youth, scholastic, collegiate, local Sunday league, amateur, semi-pro, pro, or over the hill-age-limit leagues???

  1. Charles w. Coates
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at noon
    Wait -- which one of these comments refers to having read Gardner "for years?" This is my first ever comment and -- I've just unsubscribed. Though I am still hoping for suggestions regarding good alternative newsletters! As to watching or playing US soccer... who mentioned that? And I while I agree with the assessment of the American game over the last 30 years, I hadn't noticed it having changed, recently or ever.

  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 12:09 p.m.
    Dear Jonny, When you knight a piece of "euro trash," all you have is Sir. Euro Trash.

  1. Tim Costello
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.
    Bad calls and calls not made have been and always will be part of the game. Even if you put 2 refs on the field at the same time it still wouldn't be right. I strongly agree with the previous comment that one should put a referee jersey on before saying a ref is incompetent. It is not an easy job. In fact you can make the argument that the offside call is the most difficult one in sport. Some refs surely are incompetent and should be denied the chance of being in "big" games. What i find interesting is that the recent comments of Ferguson and Wenger have deflected scrutiny of their decisions to not play Berbetov v. Chelsea or Arhavin v. Barcelona or maybe their preparation for these games? Did Wenger really think that playing in his own half Arsenal could hold Barcelona to one goal?

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 1:25 p.m.
    Great comment Tim. I wouldn't be a referee for anything -- don't know why anyone would want to subject them-self to the abuse. That said, I would love to better understand the process for reviewing referee's' performance and for how they are selected for the BIG games. It sometimes appears,especially in the World Cup that some of the referees selected are professionally way out of their depth.

  1. Rick Figueiredo
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 1:47 p.m.
    Wow. The best part of that article was calling Sir Alex's title a "toy title!" Love it. I do however think Alex is an above average coach (manager) who is very lucky to have a team who spends tons of money on good players. You could probably put an american coach in there and he would do good! I think most coaches think they are above the law. I do. But I keep it to myself.

  1. Albert Harris
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
    As soon as I saw Paul dis on the silliness of referring to a coach being Sir, I knew the outrage from across the pond would be intense. LoL The British class system and degrees of nobility and knighthood always make for interesting byplay for a poor yank like myself, but really folks, how can you take any system seriously that requires you to address somebody as "Sir Bobby"?

  1. Joe Shoulders
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
    Well said again, Paul. PG is the best. Always a must read for me ... He's the only reason I go to SA's website. btw I thought the card for van persie was harsh but I agree with everything else in this article.

  1. Bobby Cantona
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 2:22 p.m.
    Well I just couldn't resist jumping into this... Myself as a Yank I wish we had something like knighthood to which people could aspire. Can't help thinking it somehow encourages good behavior. About the football and bad losers -- Being maybe the worst loser on the planet is a huge part of Sir Alex's charm, and I'm guessing also part of his technique. As to refs, I dare say I've always wondered what inspires people to undertake that work, but it's never occurred to me that the chief quality could be courage. Of course bad calls are inevitable -- The thing that stands out about Busacca's call on Van Persie was that it was a sin of commission. Not a call that he missed, or a call that he got wrong, but a needless intervention, making an obvious game-changing call when it was clear no call of any kind was required. I'm with Wenger. He's not bragging about the way his team was playing, and he's not insisting that every call in the game needed to be correct. He's pointing out that his team was winning, then the ref changed the game, then his team lost. I'm pretty sure Pep Guardiola would agree with those facts. And our man Gardner's having kittens. Sheesh!

  1. Ian Plenderleith
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.
    This representative of AC Milan who "encompasses sportsmanship and fair play" - would he be part of the same AC Milan that set out to with the pre-meditated game plan to kick Tottenham Hotspur back to London in the CL first leg game three weeks ago? Otherwise, re. the fulminating Ferg and whining Wenger - spot on.

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.
    To Ric F. I wish I wasn't diasbled and as old as I am otherwise I would love to try some refering out. The biggest thing that you forget Ric is that NO ONE MADE YOU DO IT, YOU VOLUNTEERED to be a ref. I you had to go to court for a traffic violation, you would want ALL judges to rule the same,wouldn't you! all I expect is ref's being fair on calls. I know at time's it can be extremely difficult to make a good or fair call and I am not against a ref for that call, it's when you allow a team to create fouls and just wave it on and give penalties to the other team for the same type of foul. Maybe ref's should be allowed to review replays of fouls to get a better call on the pitch.

  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 5:56 p.m.
    I wouldn't go as far as calling Ferguson and Wenger lousy losers, although it has a nice ring to it. Sore losers? Absolutely. Poor losers? Maybe. But then again, aren't we all? In the heat of the moment, when it matters most, who likes losing? And don't forget the stage. This is big-time stuff, big-time money. The UCL isn't the kind of monkey business we're doing here, saying yes or no to this or that. So let's give credit where credit is due. Managers like these guys don't come around too often. They don't just happen all of a sudden. They're imperfect, yes. They say the wrong things sometimes, yes. But that shouldn't negate all the hard work and dedication that got them where they are in the first place. Now, regarding the match itself, I'll start with my final comment after the first leg: "show some class, eat some humble pie" (courtesy of Mick). In this case, though, I'm telling this to Arsenal. Because Barcelona ruled you. Offensively and defensively, that first half alone was a clinic. PAYMENT NOW PAST DUE. More than the ref, and the coaches, and the fans, and the media, the ones most accountable for the outcome are the players themselves. Van Persie deserved that red. Because he was dumb-enough, that's why. Dumb-enough to hit Dani Alves for nothing in the first half, costing him the yellow; and then dumb-enough to kick the ball for nothing in the second half, costing him the red. You do dumb stuff like that, and suddenly the whole table can turn on you. And suddenly you find yourself at the mercy of a destiny that isn't yours. And the first one who's going to go at you is the ref. And why shouldn't he? He's playing the role of judge. You think he's going to back out when his moment to shine comes around? I would have been okay if the kid had actually hit the target, but he wasn't even close. And then Bendtner. He comes in and gets a beautiful opportunity to win it, but he's not ready and not focused to deliver and claim it. And finally Fabregas. How can a player of his caliber try a heel pass (or whatever that was) right outside his own box, just as his whole team is trying to get the hell out of danger? Again, because he was dumb-enough. Lovely pass, just as he used to do at La Masia. Iniesta thanks him very much, does his vintage dance, and feeds Messi to open the scoreboard. And the rest, as they say, is history. Which is, to reiterate my point, determined most by the players themselves.

  1. Chris Ogle
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 6:02 p.m.
    Paul is absolutely right, Wenger and Ferguson are the biggest cry babys in the sport.It doesn't matter how bad they lose,neither is capable of giving the opposition any credit what so ever.They're a pair of overbearing weeping winneys and there is definitely an element of mental illness involved.On top of that Ferguson is undoubtedly a heavy drinker judging by his appearance, which might help explain his psychotic behavior at times.Wenger is just a bitter,sad,pathetic person who's resentfulness at not achieving the goals he's set for himself is eating at his brain like a cancer.I agree with Paul,every time I hear that Sir at the beginning of Ferguson's name I want to throw up.That whole royalty thing that those people hang on to is so absurd.

  1. Bobby Cantona
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 6:53 p.m.
    Nice comments by Andres thanks. I especially agree that weenies like us should retain a little perspective when judging world class pros like SAF and Wenger. Their public comments are as deliberate and as calculated as anything they do in managing their teams, always about making every effort to secure the next victory. We may be shocked and outraged at what we call their childish behavior and think we'd do better. If they're crazy and intolerant and irrational when they lose, I expect that's because they want their players to show a similar intolerance toward losing. Also, seems to me they're both really great at giving credit to their opponents, Wenger in particular and specific language in this case. Not sure I agree about dumb so much. Or in any case the dumbest play in this game had to be Busquets' with the own goal. Or more to the point, Barca ain't perfect either and they made plenty of dumb plays. But with Van Persie, sure it was dumb to take the shot, but how dumb really, if it would have been okay if he hit the target? (At which milli-second did he know he would miss?) Maybe he could or should have heard the whistle and stopped, but he didn't. And the ref's penalty was excessive, beyond the pale, outside the range of what would usually be expected, even by a dumb jock. My immediate reaction was that I had never seen a call like that. And believe me, I spend way too much time watching the game. I expect any honest Barcelona player or fan would say this was a bizarre call, and their victory, however well-deserved, is tainted by it.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 11, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.
    To Kerry Ogden: Hey thanks for your input, however, NO ONE MADE YOU BECOME A PLAYER OR A COACH. FYI, it is assumed that during all matches of importance, an referee assessor is supposed to be present, and after each game, the assessor is supposed to give a brief report to the officiating team and a full report is sent to them shortly after their match and during tournament time, the assessment report is provided forthwith.'Tis funny indeed that I bet not many knew of such that assessment program exists eh? This doesn't mean that refs/game officials aren't prone to make mistakes - hear what happened to a college basketball team of officials when they made some crucial mistakes? They were removed from calling any more games and will be re-assessed before assigned any future games. Now why don't we have such a program in our sport? Oh well, food for thought!

  1. Jonny Sinclair
    commented on: March 12, 2011 at 8:03 a.m.
    Rick Figueredo.....did you stop to think WHY Man United might have a lot of money to buy top players? Because Sir Alex has spent a quarter century turning the club into a powerhouse. Yes, it takes care of itself now, but he is the reason why. To take a team who hadn't won the league in something like 26yrs, to winning premier league title year after year, deserved a bit more than "above average" coach. Arise Sir Alex!!

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: March 12, 2011 at 11:41 p.m.
    Paul Gardner --- any update on this: "US Soccer tempts Bielsa with director position, report" March 12

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: March 13, 2011 at 2:16 p.m.
    RVP's red was typical of the sendings off so common under Wenger's reign. Most Arsenal reds aren't due to thuggish conduct. They're mostly due to Arsenal's players acting like whiny little b*****s when things don't go their way. They are incapable of just getting on with it and gutting out wins. RVP's 2nd yellow was ridiculous but the 1st one was typical: he got it for childish petulance. Until Arsenal and Wenger can get rid of these regular, inopportune temper tantrums, it will continue to be close but no cigar for them.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 13, 2011 at 4:16 p.m.
    PG is a great columnist. He takes subtle differences and magnifies them to make a provocative point. In this case, are Wenger's and Ferguson's comments honest (though perhaps biased by perspectives) assessments of a referee's performance (and impact), or are they slimy attempts by coaches to manipulate the referees and even their own players? Given, PG's hatred of coaching, his point must be taken with a grain of salt, but it also shows a respect for the foresightedness of the coaches. I think both Wenger and Ferguson are two of the best coaches in the game, and I think Wenger's comments were out of frustation; to red card a player for time wasting, most referees would make sure it was pretty blatant, and RVP's was clearly not. Had a card not been given, I doubt a single Barca player would have been upset. Ferguson I think is much more conscious of "working the refs" to try to get future calls, so I think PG's comments are more accurate there. But a larger point, which PG also brings up, is that coaches constant berating of referees undermines the refs' authority, which is not good for the game. Refereeing is exceptionally difficult, and accusing referees of bias is a pretty serious charge. Every ref makes mistakes, and unfortunately, some of those mistakes even change the outcome of the game. But if coaches respect the efforts of the referee, and take their losses with class, we're all better off. Or if the coaches become "good losers", will they actually become good at losing? Like I said, PG's columns make you think about it, which make them must reading in my book...

  1. Sidney Hall
    commented on: March 14, 2011 at 10:09 a.m.
    I am so sick and tired of "reporters or so called soccer "experts". Protecting referees when they obviously have a bious for and against certrain teams or managers. In the Man U v Chelsea game, the referee Martin Atkinson, obviously had a favorite team in the game. He tyurned a blind eye to the many Chelsea fouls, some of them happening right in front of him. Disappointing to see the FA rush to the defense of Atkinson, they obviously did not review the game tapes. Paul, you and I obviously did not watch the same game on that day.


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We now know the identities of the replacement referees PRO used to officiate this past weekend's ...
Ref lockout is a lose-lose situation for PRO and MLS    
It's not easy to see what MLS is gaining from its hard-line stance in the ongoing ...
NBC guru sees modern soccer as honest brave defenders against sneaky, cheating attackers    
Jim Beglin, an Irishman, played soccer for Liverpool in the 1980s. If you're a Liverpool fan ...
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