By Paul Gardner
As far as I can discover, there is no specific FIFA rule that would prevent goalkeepers from making asses of themselves. Maybe there should be, as they clearly have some sort of inbuilt facility that enables them to excel on the idiocy front.
Quite aside from all that purple-faced apoplectic ranting and raving (most of it, whatever the self-serving goalkeeper coaches may tell you, done for the television cameras) there is the matter of dress. Attire. Uniforms.
Of course, the rules almost invite eccentricity here, by commanding that the goalkeeper must wear “colors that distinguish him from the other players, the referee and the assistant referee. That is, from the other players of both teams -- and I suppose we can now add “additional assistant referees” to the list of people whom goalkeepers must not look like.
During Euro 96 English goalkeeper David Seaman pushed that to what one hopes is its ultimate absurdity by appearing in a nighmarish shirt (or is that what the rules call a jersey?) featuring blotches of various lurid colors splashed all over it without any noticeable design qualities. A shirt that may have terrified opponents, but not enough to see England to victory in Euro 96.
As for MLS, in its early days the Mexican goalie Jorge Campos turned out in startling shirts that confirmed what we already know about famous Mexican muralists -- that they are masters in the use of bright colors. Campos didn’t last long in MLS.
I want to draw attention to a more recent example of bizarre goalkeeper sartorial fashion in MLS. Just two days ago, in fact, in the Kansas City vs. Colorado game, you may have noticed the Kansas goalkeeper, Jimmy Nielsen, looking rather twerpish with what looked like a bath-towel wrapped, rather loosely, around his neck.
It was not a bath towel. It was a snood. A what? Well, quite. My dictionary has several definitions of a snood -- all concerned with devices or clothing to keep hair in place. None of them mentions goalkeepers or neckwear.
But snood was the name that got used in England earlier this year when these unsightly garments started to appear on players in the Premier League -- Carlos Tevez and Sami Nasri were two prominent devotees of the snood. The idea, I gather, was to counter the dangers of the cold, damp English weather.
With almost unheard-of haste FIFA got involved. The great snood debate turned up on the agenda of IFAB, FIFA’s rule-making body. Actually, I made up that bit about a great debate. IFAB didn’t bother to debate the matter. In no time at all, IFAB had issued its verdict: Snoods were out. Banned, with immediate effect.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter quickly dismissed the whole thing: “There was not even a discussion, because this is not part of the uniform.” True, Rule 4 (Players’ Equipment) contains no mention of snoods. But Blatter found another, and rather ominous, reason for banishing the snood -- that it is “dangerous — it can be like to hang somebody.”
No snoods, then. Yet here was Nielsen playing an entire game sporting a prominent snood. Apparently no one noticed, or saw anything wrong with that. Certainly not referee Kevin Stott.
As if Colorado, racked with injuries, didn’t have enough problems, they now had to face Nielsen the Snood, an opponent wearing illegal equipment for the full game, in full view, and in full violation of an absolutely specific FIFA ban.
I have now given this matter my full attention and have reached certain conclusions -- which, as it happens I’m not happy with, as I have no reason to want to prolong the presence of Colorado (not my favorite team, not at all) in the playoffs.
However that may be, I suggest that Colorado should lodge a protest with MLS, requesting that the result of that game against Kansas City be nullified -- on the grounds that Kansas goalkeeper Nielsen was wearing illegal equipment for the entire game (they could also add, for my satisfaction, that he looked ridiculous, but that might not cut any ice with MLS).
Colorado should then demand that the game be awarded to them on a forfeit. The usual score for forfeit games is, I think 3-0. Now that, as you can see, would give Colorado a 3-2 aggregate score victory over Kansas City, and thereby propelling them into the Eastern Conference final against Houston.
And if that doesn’t happen, then I must ask MLS to act on aesthetic grounds, and to assure us that we’ve seen the last of Nielsen’s ridiculous snood get-up.