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Nani red card reveals Fox TV experts are 17 years behind the times
by Paul Gardner, March 5th, 2013 11:13PM

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TAGS:  referees

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By Paul Gardner

So it's the referee's fault again. A Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, had the gall to red-card Manchester United’s Nani --- at Old Trafford, no less -- and Real Madrid won the game. And a torrent of abuse has gathered about Cakir's head.

To be expected -- at least from the ManU fans, and to a lesser extent from those fans who believe British clubs should win everything. But this particular wave of disgust with the referee seems to have overwhelmed our resident experts at Fox Soccer.

Warren Barton, broadcasting live, and doing a pretty good job, was the first to succumb. Having just praised Cakir for “handling the game very well,” he gasped at the red card, declared himself speechless, but managed to add “I’ve been in the game for 25 years, I’ve never seen a red card for that.”

The particular “that” referred to by Barton was the sight of Nani’s cleats ramming into the rib cage of Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa. Barton admitted “Yes, it’s a high foot” but insisted that the offense merited only “A yellow card -- max -- for me.”

Watching the replay, Barton indignantly asked “Is there any intent there whatever?”

Back in the Fox studio, the assembled panel -- with Rob Stone in the chair, and Eric Wynalda, Brian McBride and Richard Gough the opinion guys -- had their say.

McBride: Not a red card -- there’s no intent.

Gough: In a big game like this the referee has to be 100 percent correct, there can’t be any doubt in his mind,” then, watching the replay again, “Definitely not intent involved.”

Rob Stone asked, tellingly, how do you judge intent? Wynalda admitted that he didn’t know. Stone commented “Impossible to judge intent.”

Back to Barton, now telling us “You have to be 100 percent certain there was intent”.

Wynalda leveled the age-old criticism at referees: “... you wonder, how much do they really know? How much have they played the game?”

And you might also wonder how much the panel of experts knows -- how often have they read the rules? Because here you have a bunch of four top ex-players, and none of them knows what the rule says -- the very rule they’re discussing. I would have thought that when you’re employed -- by which I mean paid -- to be an expert on soccer, one thing you’d do for sure -- maybe the first thing -- would be to bone up on the rules.

Appallingly, none of these guys has. Allow me to make that worse -- they are working from a rulebook that was re-written in 1997. None of them, not Barton, not McBride, not Wynalda, not Gough, has bothered to keep up to date, to actually read the rules.

What happened in 1997 (among other changes) was that “intent” was virtually written out of the rules. It remained only for cases of handball. For all other fouls, it ceased to be relevant. The fouls -- kicking, tripping, charging, striking, pushing etc -- are all still there, but the referee from then on has had to judge whether they are committed in a careless, or a reckless way, or if “excessive force” has been used.

In 1996 I attended a referees’ seminar on these changes, where it was announced, with relief I thought, that “referees will no longer be required to be mind readers.”

I’ll emphasize that I’m making no judgment on that rule change. But a change, a huge change, it was. Forget intent. Yet here we have the Fox experts condemning Cuneyt Cakir for failing to apply a rule that was abolished 17 seasons ago.

Nothing in what I’m saying precludes the possibility that Cakir got the call wrong. But if he did, it had nothing to do with the presence or absence of intent.

One might agree with Barton that this foul warranted only a yellow card, but that would be questioning Cakir’s judgment on the severity (and not the intent) of the foul. Cakir evidently judged the foul to involve the use of “excessive force” (defined in the rule book as “far exceeding the necessary use of force” and “in danger of injuring his opponent”) and therefore a red card. Barton would claim that it was only a “reckless” foul (“complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent”), and therefore a yellow card.

That is an arguable issue. I’m not trying to sit on the fence here. Cakir’s decision is, to me, the correct one, within the rules, because that was how he saw the foul. Four Fox experts may well see it differently. But they need to do their homework before mouthing off.

Amazingly, the most sensible comment on Cakir’s decision came from former ManU hard man and hit man, Roy Keane. It’s worth listening to -- Wynalda, who thinks only the players know what’s what -- should pay attention. Here is Roy Keane: “In my career I would think ‘did I give the referee a chance to send me off?’ If I did, then it is out of my hands. I think that is the right decision. It is irrelevant if Nani meant to do it. He should be aware of the players around him. Does he think that he will have 20 yards to himself?”



56 comments
  1. Tim King
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 11:48 p.m.
    As usual old man Gardner thinks he knows best. Now any player going for a ball, scissor kick, etc. better not raise there boot past their knee. Nani was going for the ball, DID NOT see the player because he NEVER looked at the player. Going for the ball the entire time. It was a fair go. Now with this idiot referees decision the sport becomes more tame, more powder-puff. It was a bad call and 95% of those watching and "know" football have stated that.

  1. antonino evola
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 11:50 p.m.
    it was no intent of a foul im a reef for over 30 years ,,belive me ,that not a red card, i dont care what the rule said, the player who got kick , come so fast that the player did not had the chance to stop the motion of kick,,remember this a game of soccer not a ping pong mach,,the reef schould have apply the best rule that it not on the rule book , and the rule is COMMON SENSE

  1. antonino evola
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 11:53 p.m.
    tim king you are correct sir

  1. antonino evola
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 11:54 p.m.
    nani did not see the player ,like i said im a reef ,and still said that was a bad call

  1. antonino evola
    commented on: March 5, 2013 at 11:55 p.m.
    mister paul gardener ,you are way off on this one

  1. John Soares
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:28 a.m.
    Harsh call, no doubt. Red card, don't think so. I am confident I would not have made it. BUT Paul has a point. Intent is not the issue. The result of the play is. Tim, You started making a good point then lost it or chose not to finish it. If a player does a bicycle or scissor kick and as a result sticks his foot in a player's face. That IS a foul regardless of intent.

  1. Ken Jamieson
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:50 a.m.
    There's a reason they "Fox Four" are where they are and not coaching a professional club. In hockey, there is an addage that a player is responsible for the actions of his stick. In soccer, the addage could very well be that a player is responsible for what or who he kicks.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:57 a.m.
    Agree with Paul in as much as intent is not the issue even though many pundits are mentioning it. However, if you compare this to the Nigel de Jong high boot you'll notice the dutchman sees his opponent the entire time right up to the point his boot goes through his opponent's chest. With Nani, he is unaware of the player behind him so his high boot contact is a surprise. Not excessive force but Dangerous Play in any event. Antonino, your 30 years of refereeing might just mean you haven't kept up with the LOTG any more than the pundits.

  1. Tom Symonds
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 1:34 a.m.
    Gulp, this is hard to do, I agree with Paul. Gulp again, I agree with Roy Keane. Nani's high kick (a foot doesn't raise itself that high by accident) displayed a reckless disregard for others and he "did give the referee a chance to send him off." I admit I thought it would be yellow since the Premiership, which is about the only league Fox routinely carries, still applies "full-blooded" to mask reckless play. Regarding the video clips of the incident, what I don't see is the lead up to the incident so I can't say for sure that Nani didn't already see Arbeloa; perhaps the referee saw something from Nani the rest of us aren't aware of. There are many incidents in football where we can point and say "see, it should be" or "see, it shouldn't be", and you have to learn to accept them either way they come at you. Regarding the Fox crew at Old Trafford and in the Studio - horrible!! If the incident was reversed, Barton would be the first to say, "that has to be a red"; and the studio crew are the same ones (minus Gough) who saw nothing wrong with Hazard kicking a ball boy - enough said.

  1. Daniel Malek
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 1:38 a.m.
    So Paul Gardner says the referee deemed there was use of "excessive force", but ridicules the FSC commentators for questioning "intent". Either way, a common-sense determination was required for the particular situation, and all that was offered was a harsh, game-changing decision. As a Manchester fan, the referee's choice, and subsequent result are hard pills to swallow. As a soccer fan, this adds to my already looming suspicions of match fixing that we have all become used to hearing of in the world of the sport...

  1. david fernandes
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 1:43 a.m.
    Mr. Paul let's say that your criteria is right, it was a straight red card. How the game is going to be in the upcoming future, because there is always a feet high to get the ball and there is always an opponent who might get to the ball first like albiol. Im seeing, probably, red car on all matches!! Why didnt diego lopez(real keeper) get a red card when he punched vidic on the face??? The criteria would be he tried to get rid of the ball but vidic got there first therefore it was not intentional (i think that's ref point of view). I mean clearly the ref got a wrong criteria because he had not used the same with diego lopez.

  1. Mike Maurer
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 1:51 a.m.
    This makes me think of Nigel De Jong's studs up challenge into the chest of a Spanish? player. That would have been a red, not this one where the player goes to the ground screaming in order to deceive the ref....

  1. John M Cote
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 5:32 a.m.
    Nani never saw the guy coming and was clearly going for the ball. The fact that an opponent throws himself at you is not a red card offense.

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 6:52 a.m.
    I'm no Real Madrid fan. In fact I find everything about Ronaldo, Pepe, Mourunho and company to be unpleasant at best. However, that's an obvious foul and I have no problem with a red card there. Nani is responsible for where he puts his feet. He was out of control.

  1. Bill Kane
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 7:31 a.m.
    No good angle looking over ref shoulder to see what he saw but looks to me like the player runs into Nani's foot, slides past his studs and then Nani straightens his knee to push him away - intentionally.

  1. john davies
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 7:48 a.m.
    Fulham Fan here, wrong call simple, Nani was watching the ball all the way to his feet, if he had turned looked at the player that would have been a red card, but if we start to give a red card for every tackle a player makes and misses the ball then there would be very few players left in the game. The Ream Madrid goalkeeper clearly punched Vidic in the face probably did not mean it, but he knew he was there, so if you use the same argument these other pundits are why did the referee not deem that a red card. No he ruined a good game, and if Nani had been causing trouble or the game had been dirty it would have been more understandable.

  1. Dylan Onderdonk-snow
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 7:50 a.m.
    Highway Robbery! I think RM is paying referees. Could not have reffed a better game -- except for outrageous, ridiculous straight red on Nani! If he was all around bad, maybe I could accept it as mistake; but it was ludicrous and, given run of play, maybe the only way to give RM a shot of staying in tourney.

  1. Dylan Onderdonk-snow
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 7:53 a.m.
    Totally agree w J Davies point about Lopez going after ball and punching Vidic by accident. Great point!

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 8:43 a.m.
    I'm convince now that people comment without reading the column. When people comment on where Nani was looking at or want Nani may have been trying to do they miss the point entirely. Intent means nothing. Nani's studs connected with Arbeloa's body and not the ball. Regardless of what he may have intended to do the referee is well within his right to give a red card. This is to insure that players remain responsible of how they fling their bodies around the field. Tough call for Nani but completely justified.

  1. Eric Schmitt
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 8:51 a.m.
    We need to remember that the ref only gets to see this once, in real time, as it happens. He doesn't get review it to check the exact angle of the players, or the exact position of the foot. He has to call what he sees. Nani put himself in a position where the ref had a decision to make. For that, he has no one to blame but himself.

  1. Ken Hohman
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:04 a.m.
    Gardner is absolutely spot on, again. Since when is a studs up kick to the chest NOT a red card? Would the naysayers have youth soccer referees letting kids kick each other in the ribs on the grounds of intent? The red card was completely justified, and it is to Mourinho and Real's credit that they pounced on the opportunity.

  1. Lou vulovich
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:08 a.m.
    If you ever played soccer at a half decent level, you would know Nani had plenty of time to withdraw his foot, not extend his knee and hold his studs up through the tackle. At the last split second when you see a player off the corner of your eye you simply keep your toe down and do not extend your knee. Nani's foul was not only intentional but stupid. Great teams win with 10 players. The real mistake was made by a great coach in leaving his best player out of his lineup that should be the topic. Fergi blew it.

  1. Charles O'Cain
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:11 a.m.
    I suspect it was Arbeloa's two-and-a-half rolls and clutching his chest (when replays suggest there was only contact with the arm - no rippling of the jersey as one would expect with studs to the ribs) which decided things for the ref (half way across the pitch and behind the play). A poor call. And I'm amazed that the keeper's punch to the face of Vidic fails to excite the interest of Mr Gardner, who so regularly decries the "special privileges" afforded that position (the keeper certainly didn't get the ball ... just the man). Or is it all OK since it was a Northern European player for an English team who was punched (only fouls on skillful Latin players are to be punished)?

  1. Joe Linzner
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
    However, there are two ways of looking at this instance. Nani was obvious reaching for the ball with his leg and foot extended with his eyes focused on the ball. We are to assume then that Nani was going for the ball, which is of course his right. Nani would have to pick up Arbeloa with his peripheral vision. Arbeloa was of course also going for the ball also his right. The difference is vision! One player was facing the ball whereas the other was initially looking for the ball. The one facing the ball with clear forward vision was Arbeloa. Thus he saw Nani reaching for the ball, yet he continued to move int the impending conflict. My question is this an intent to draw a foul and a red card on the part of the defender and if so who really has the responsibility for a dangerous play?? It is like the continual diving that disrupts the game in both offensive and defensive modes. My opinion is tat yes, it deserved a card , Red, perhaps, but I would have chosen a yellow because culpability lies with both players. As a matter of fact given that in my view one player clearly saw the raised foot prior to the contact and chose to continue with his charge, clearly shifts some responsibility on Arbeloa. As with any rule it is never black and white and I find it questionable how convenient Mr Gardner refers to the black and white condition in this call. I suppose he must find something to write about. I also am somewhat perplexed as to his dissing of ex-players. It seems obvious to me that when reading his column that he is one of those whose book learning far exceeds the ken of those who have played the game at a level far above his page turning expertise. Thus the glee of tossing darts in their direction. Sorta small of him. I think.

  1. Lou vulovich
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.
    Vidic is Serbian, not Northern European, complete different circumstance with the keeper.The soccer pundits, although I like Wynalda are wrong. They are simply MU fans. Bad decisions by a great coach, that should be real discussion.

  1. Ronnie j Salvador
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.
    I booked a player this past season for an elbow to the face. Definitely wasn’t intentional, but reckless. Coach [a long time coach and former college player] screams that his player didn’t intend to elbow the opponent. I explained to him that intent is no longer in the rule book. He looked at me puzzled, and said ‘really?’ He calmed down after that. My point is…intent is NOT in the rulebook. Refs no longer have to guess / decide if there was intent. Was Nani’s foot high? Yes. Did he make contact? Yes. Could he have looked around and realized there was someone in the vicinity? Absolutely! These are pros. He can’t assume no one is around him. Definitely bookable offense. Whether it’s yellow or red, will vary per ref. I don’t know the tendencies of this particular ref, but guaranteed these teams knew. Good players and teams adjust to the style of the referee. This happened at warp speed and without benefit of instant replay, so you need to cut the officials some slack.

  1. Gordon Wright
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 10:20 a.m.
    Referees are on the field to enforce the rules. When they become part of the outcome of the game through overreaching calls, they are no longer doing their job. In this case, it was a yellow card, not a red.

  1. John Polis
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
    Excellent, thought-provoking column, Paul. Regardless of what the call should have been, it is quite remarkable that people who are paid to comment on the game are not up with the latest rule changes. And it also is quite troubling that many play-by-play announcers (as well as their expert commentators) get things wrong in their description of the game when it involves a referee's decision. Soccer is a difficult game to officiate, if for no other reason, that there are gray areas where fouls do not stop play or merit a whistle because of the play-on, advantage clause. If I'm the head man at Fox or ESPN with regard to TV soccer broadcasts, I'm requiring all of the announcers to go through a special session with some top officials -- as you did Paul. It's ludicrous for an ex-player to come out and make a comment about "intent," when that word has, for the most part, been expunged from the rule book. A refresher on rule changes might eliminate this type of foolish comment from coming up -- over and over again. Notice I said "might."

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
    IMHO, intent is measuring up the opponent and blatantly fouling him in order to stop his progress...in 99% of such cases the refs issue a yellow card (including hard tackles from the side or rear) and in Nani's situation, i believe there was no intent,nd a yellow card would have been appropriate...but, the ref did what he thought was right and life on the pitch goes on.

  1. Albert Wolf
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.
    As a fan of good soccer with no allegiance to either team, I was a little disappointed by the call but I could see why it was made. Listening to the MU cheering section on Fox Soccer was annoying and I couldn't understand the one-sidedness.

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.
    I think it's time for Paul G. to retire, due to brain fart's!

  1. Oh No
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
    Sure, the Ref legitamately had the right to make the call. But he legitamately had the right to make it a yellow card. He also had time to think about the call. He did not immediately and instictively pull the red. He gave himself time to think about. So he purposely decided to impact a game that before hand was not out of control or looking to go in that direction if he dicided to give the yellow. What is the purpose of the ref. To maintain fairness and safety of the game with out otherwise effecting the outcome. How was the refs decision on that basis? How would giving the yellow card been a detriment to the game of soccer or this specific game. At a minimum this point should be discussed and reviewed by refs and thier organizations. It was a choice the ref was able to call but still a bad choice.

  1. Joe Kee
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at noon
    The commentators and analysts are mostly blowhards (true of any sport, though) but that was NOT a red card offense.

  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:27 p.m.
    Amazing--most of the people who commented here, KNOW what Nani was looking at. I didn't realise that many soccer people had extraordinary powers.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.
    As a long-time ref (and longer time player), I think the referee was trying to do the right thing, difficult as it was. But he was wrong, even if technically you could justify the call. What is the purpose of the red card? To punish behavior so severely that players would not engage in such behavior. What did Nani do wrong? He's trying to bring a ball down that is coming over his shoulder by catching it on his foot, and he's in the area of the field that is quite wide open (out on the flank). There was no one in that space when Nani started the motion (Arbeloa rushes to the ball from 10-15 yds away), and Nani never saw him, since had he taken his eye off the flight of the ball, he would have missed the trap (this was NOT a tackle). Additionally, the contact was not studs to chest, but chest so side of Nani's outstretched foot. So a yellow could have been issued (for dangerous play) and everyone would've been fine. For those that think this should be a red card, should we also red card people for bicycle kicks that catch a defender? What about people who attempt to head a ball and are a fraction late (therefore "headbutting" another player, surely a red card offense?). Look at the big picture. We want players to use their skills (as Nani attempted to). These are pros, they know the risks (and there wasn't much here).

  1. Charles O'Cain
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.
    So (geography aside, and my apologies to Central Europe)), is it OK for the goalie to punch the player (who is trying to score) in the face? Is this not dangerous and excessively violent without regard for the safety of the opponent? Or did the keeper (looking straight ahead and NOT "out of the corner of his eye" at the oncoming Vidic) not have "plenty of time to withdraw" his fist?. Not even arguable. And I'm not even arguing "intent".

  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.
    While the commentators are clearly biased towards Man U, and are as clueless as the average fan far as the rules go,I think they were right is arguing that the sending off changed the outcome of the game. And their sense was right; that Nani did nothing so bad that the ref should change the outcome of the game as a penalty. But I do wish the commentators would get some experience as refs; the view is very different from the other side of the whistle, and their commentary would benefit from that experience.

  1. Lou vulovich
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 12:53 p.m.
    Charles, Eastern European. Vidic. And The keeper are moving towards the ball at the same timeand the keeper is late with the contact on Vidic, this could be called a foul, but most of this contact in the box seems to be ignored, as Vidic would get a red every game for his play. I would not have given Nani a straight red, simply because I know he is not a dirty plyer, but I would guess 4 out of 10 referees would have given Nani a red card, he should have not extended his leg. I know the discussion is the red card, but why are people so afraid to say Alex F, made huge mistakes that caused MU to loose. And I love A F.

  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 1:05 p.m.
    I agree 100% with Kent James on this one. No red card, yellow would have been perfectly fine. It would have kept the flow of the game and given us a better show at the end. But so be it. Suspicions abound.

  1. Charles O'Cain
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
    Oh well, back to remedial geography for me. I'll have to say, Nani was the one player I worried about when I saw the team sheet ... but SAF doesn't have to answer to me for his choices.

  1. Lou vulovich
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.
    I am sure your geography is excellent. Apparently SAF does not have to answer to anyone, because he has made some big blunders in the last few years, and any other coach who would have left Rooney out of the lineup would have been blasted by the English media. The red card is a great excuse for poor coaching when your best player is on the bench. I think Mourinho thanked him for leaving Wayne on the bech,

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
    Like Andres Yturralde, I agree with James. As a former referee and referee assessor, the call should've been a dangerous play call, a yellow, and a restart with an IFK. As I said in another comment, intent is highly subjective, but then again P. Gardner mentions the removal of the work "intent" from the LOG in 1996, and 17 years have elapsed since that OBD, while the game has gotten faster, players more adept, that maybe it is high time to re-introduce intent back into the LOG? I don't think it will happen cause the IBD will take its sweet time to enact and notify all of the FIFA members! Lastly, so Waldo wonders if referees ever played the game? To which I answer, have any of those TV pundits, color commentators and highly paid former pros EVER officiate a game at any level from youth-ayso recreational to street/amateur, high school college, or what not? I hereby CHALLENGE these guys to put on a game officials uniform, give them a whistle or AR flags and see how they fare. Lastly, it was a good game, my house was divided RM/ManU, that is until MU was reduced to 10 players. As I said it should've been a yellow with an IFK restart. PLAY ON!!!

  1. Vince Leone
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
    Neutral's perspective: Photos show Nani's cleat firmly planted in Arbeloa's side. A yellow would probably have been a better choice, but a red was not unreasonable. Gardner is correct that intent or lack thereof is completely irrelevant. On balance, ManU probably received favorable treatment from the ref because he missed the handball by Rafael: Not only would RM have been awarded a penalty if the ref had seen it, but Rafael would have also been sent off. Law 12 says explicitly that stopping a goal with a hand (as Rafael clearly did)is a sending-off offense. The possible handball against RM was less clear (the arm was at the body) and it definitely wasn't clear that it prevented a goal.

  1. bgix
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 7 p.m.
    Don't think anyone argues that a foul and a Yellow needed to be given. But a Red, when there was clearly no intent, and no warning is too harsh. As others have said, the effect of such a call is to make people afraid to play. If Arbeloa had not come from nowhere, and Nani succeeded in controlling the ball, no one would have blinked an eye, and Nani would have been applauded for a slick play. But yes, dangerous as was demonstrated. With a Yellow, Nani likely would have played much more cautiously from then on, to avoid the red. With the Red, we are saying "don't even try" to play flashy from the first whistle. There are reasons for warnings, and one of the reasons is so that you can reign in out of control players.... Not so that you prevent them from ever improvising. And hey, I hate Man-U.

  1. Vince Leone
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 7:27 p.m.
    It's wrong to blame the ref for ManU losing. As I said just above bgix's comment, the ref also should have awarded RM a penalty kick and sent Rafael off. Compared to that, sending Nani off had less influence on the game. Yes, the ref probably made a mistake in showing yellow instead of red. (Nani also made a mistake in giving "the referee a chance to send [him] off," as Roy Keane puts it.) On balance, the referees mistakes favored ManU.

  1. Tom Rackmales
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 9:43 p.m.
    I don't like to enter debate without moving it forward but...asinine red card and asinine, mildly silly opinion piece...I've reffed at a fairly high level and played it too... Nani is playing the ball the whole time (as is the Man U player), Nani is jumping and extending his leg to control the ball. Both "Oh no" and Joe Kee make good points above... This silly opinion piece suggests that the removal of "intent" from the law of the game allows the referee to isolate on single instances/visuals ("cleat planted firmly in his side") rather than fuller consideration (granted, in the heat of the moment) of the broader contexts of (just for instance): flight of ball, position(s) and movement(s) of player(s), and a series of almost endlessly complicated variables that, if you're a referee and making a massively game-affecting decision like a red card or a pk, you need to be humble about. I'd suggest that humility is something both some refs and some football writers need to consider more.

  1. Eric Highsmith
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 10:15 p.m.
    Mr. Gardner, there are no rules in soccer. There are laws. There is no such thing as a "handball." The term is "handling." And the element of intent is not part of handling. People who live in glass houses . . .

  1. Ronald Holzhueter
    commented on: March 6, 2013 at 10:43 p.m.
    Two things are very important to consider. One, Paul Gardener knows the rules, the Fox Soccer people and many who write don't. Two, I'm very surprised that so few people saw that not only did Nani catch the rib with the "cleats", but that Nani extended his leg and turned Arbeloa around so he landed on his butt and back. Nani is a pro and he has great control of his legs. Why, after contact with a bent leg, did he "fully" extend it. That was "not" unintentional! It was a tough one but I agree with the referee's decision.

  1. feliks fuksman
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 9:08 a.m.
    Enjoyed reading all comments. Agree with Ronald's, Roy Kean's, Lou Vulovich's and Jogo Bonitos' opinions. It is so easy to criticize, much harder to make decisions on spare of the moment. Watching the game, watching replays, from different angles, slow motion, from a sofa or a bar stool, is one thing, being on the field is something else; one angle, split of a fraction... What kind of special instructions did the officials receive prior to the tournament or even prior to the match?

  1. feliks fuksman
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 9:14 a.m.
    Moreover, always admired the present television commentators as players, nevertheless to improve themselves as TV commentators they should do what they did when they excelled on the field - prepare!

  1. Jeff Gingold
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 12:49 p.m.
    I appreciate Paul Gardner's analysis, which I believe to be objective and insightful. No question it was a very high kick, and that's an invitation to a card without control over the ultimate color. You hate to see a sending off in any big match, but I don't think it can be said that there was no conceivable basis for a red.

  1. Scholes Scholes
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 3:01 p.m.
    Please...why have a ref who clearly wants to be the center of attention...to send Nani off for an challenge, clumsy perhaps…but c’mon….ruin a game…a pure spectacle…the biggest game of the year the most viewed game…ref’s have too much power and it hurts the sport….they should protect the attacking teams…not raise the off side flag so quickly, crack down on he clutching and grabbing (easy calls) that make the defenders jobs so much easier…but a red card ruins a game…forces 1 team to pack it in…what a joke UEFA picks an official, 36 years old that has given 3 reds in 8 games and 30+ yellow. He and they ruined the biggest game of the year…it’s a shame because this official hurt the sport…globally

  1. Lou vulovich
    commented on: March 7, 2013 at 10:54 p.m.
    The game only became great after the red card. Great teams win with the score 1-0, Rooney not VP is clearly the best player on a great MU team. No excuse for him being on the bench, many coaches would have been fired for such a blunder. SAF must be watching Mancini for lessons on how to keep your best players on the bench and exit the Champions League early. Great players win Championships, over coaching looses them.

  1. juan herrera
    commented on: March 11, 2013 at 7:33 p.m.
    Yes it was the right call everyone out side can allways talk but they never know what they are talking about is ashamed they get pay and have no idea what tey talking about the US Ex Players as anouncers should learn more they just started playing and they think they know it all instead they should steady and go to some type of clinic so that they know just a litle and dont make an ass of themselves

  1. Sean Kelly
    commented on: March 14, 2013 at 1:25 p.m.
    By the same argument the Real Madrid keeper should have been sent off for punching Vidic when trying to clear the ball. If intent no longer matters, then why wasn't he sent off for striking an opponent?

  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 16, 2013 at 10:28 p.m.
    Good point, Sean. That's why neither one should be a red-card. Neither player did things that we would never want to see again. The purpose of a red card is to be sufficiently serious punishment to deter players from attempting the sanctioned behavior, but Nani tried to trap a ball over his head out on the flank where (as far as he knew when he started), it would not endanger any other players. And the keeper had a legitimate shot at the ball, he was just a touch off. So while technically either could have been a red card, referee discretion should have been exercised to avoid that. The tougher issue is while the keeper should not have been carded, should Man U been awarded a pk for the keeper's mistimed punch? Certainly had a field player mistimed a tackle in the same way, it would be (so one can argue that a PK was warranted), but that doesn't feel right, so maybe keepers should be given a bit of leeway here, I guess because in their position, they almost don't have the option to not challenge for such a ball...


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