Lalas & Balboa agree -- breaking the rules is fine

By Paul Gardner

We all remember Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa, don't we. The stalwart double act at the heart of the U.S. defense in the 1994 World Cup. A rather rustic pair. That’s right -- those two. That was over 20 years ago, and they've moved on, of course. They no longer play -- or is it work? -- alongside each other but, as it happens, they’ve both moved on to television work.

Now, I’ve nothing against ex-central-defenders telling us how the game should be played ... well, no, that’s not true. I do have something against defenders of any sort -- especially the rustic sort -- telling us what should be done ... but dammit that’s not true either.

My problem is that, over this past weekend, in separate telecasts, Balboa and Lalas both recommended breaking the rules of the game as the proper way to play defense. Which is bad. Except that Balboa and Lalas were being brutally honest about the way defenders play these days ... and I’m not about to criticize them for telling the truth. I’ll try to arrive at a firm position in this quicksand.

We’ll start with Marcelo Balboa, who is the official TV analyst for the Colorado Rapids. On the whole I think he does a good job, he’s not overly pro-Rapids, he gets his points over clearly. Yes, he does a pretty solid job. Except when he’s praising fouls. At the 66th minute of Saturday’s Colorado-New England game, the Revs’ Juan Agudelo intercepted a sloppy Colorado pass in midfield and started to accelerate (and he’s pretty quick) toward the Colorado goal. Colorado’s Michael Harrington, whom Agudelo had beaten to the ball, wasn’t having any of that, and blatantly pulled Agudelo down. Harrington, correctly, got a yellow card from referee Fotis Bazakos.

Here’s Balboa: “You know what, Harrington didn’t have a choice. That’s just a professional foul. Harrington has to take him down.”

Three terse sentences. All three of them unacceptable. Harrington did have a choice. He could have decided to stick to the rules of the sport and not deliberately foul. And why is this “just” a professional foul, implying that it’s no big deal, nothing to get upset about. Quite definitely Harrington did not have to take Agudelo down.

But my biggest objection to Balboa’s analysis is not with those three sentences -- their reasoning is pretty lame and can be easily demolished. The major problem is Balboa’s attitude, the nonchalant way that he accepts a deliberate foul and condones the breaking of the sport’s rules as a legitimate way of playing the sport.

Is it really OK to flout the rules like that? Racing to back up Balboa’s contention, here comes Alexi Lalas. One day later, on Sunday, Lalas was the analyst for the Fox telecast of the Kansas City-Philadelphia game. Philadelphia’s Fernando Aristeguieta has just headed his team into a 2-1 lead. Over to Lalas: “That isn’t because he wasn’t marked. But if you’re on a guy like him, you’ve gotta be close, holding on to him, holding on to his jersey, do whatever you possibly can ...” A couple of minutes later a replay shows that KC’s Matt Besler was all over Aristeguieta and was indeed clearly holding him. The holding by Besler that we’re looking at is quite enough to warrant calling a penalty kick. But it’s not enough for Lalas, who protested “He’s still gotta do better.”

Meaning, he’s gotta do worse. Once again, as with Balboa, we see a total disregard of, a lack of respect for, the rules. Does the Balboa/Lalas combo really believe that soccer -- or any sport, for that matter -- can even exist if the players feel entitled to pick and choose which rules they will obey and which they will ignore? Can it be that B/L fail to understand the notion of Fair Play, something much touted by FIFA?

No, it can’t be. B/L know perfectly well that they’re advocating cheating. Their defense would undoubtedly be that everyone does it, that it’s now part of the game, and that referees are more likely than not to turn a blind eye to the fouls they’re condoning.

That is certainly not a moral argument -- it does nothing to answer the charge of systematic cheating. But it is definitely a practical argument. Balboa’s position at least accepts that the rules may be enforced -- as they were in Saturday’s game -- but judges the yellow card to be a nugatory punishment, one that is worth risking. Lalas’s view is more cynical, evidently confident that holding and shirt-grabbing and “doing whatever you possibly can” are unlikely to be called, so why not do them?

Neither Balboa nor Lalas actually used the words “a good foul,” but they are used -- frequently -- to describe what Balboa calls a “professional” foul (better described as a tactical foul). A “good foul” ought to be an oxymoron. But the corruption of the sport quickly induces a corruption of its language, and who today challenges the idea of a good foul? A challenge likely to be greeted with subdued snickering or open ridicule.

The problem I started with turns out to be a number of problems. The rules themselves are not forceful enough in dealing with the fouls that Balboa and Lalas are treating so lightly. But even when the rules clearly spell out the foul and the punishment (which is what they do for tactical fouls) referees do not apply the rules consistently. Unfortunately, it is not only players who choose which rules they will heed.

I think I end up here with both feet firmly planted in mid-air. I do not wish to criticize Balboa or Lalas for speaking plainly about the endemic fouling that plagues the game. But I strongly object to their virtual championing of certain fouls and their refusal to admit that they’re telling us that cheating is OK. I’m trying not to overlook that there is a moral angle to this quandary. Does this concept of the “good foul” crop up in any of the U.S. Youth Soccer’s instructional material, I wonder?

But from the strictly practical angle, it would be helpful to know what referees feel about this. What is the opinion of the professional referee’s group in this country, PRO, to TV analysts like Balboa and Lalas who openly approve of not abiding by the rules that referees are trying to enforce?

111 comments about " Lalas & Balboa agree -- breaking the rules is fine".
  1. Raymond Weigand, April 6, 2015 at 7:20 p.m.

    The tactical foul - in the first case - received a yellow card. The tactical foul - in the 2nd case - still resulted in a goal ... Probably the referees feel pretty good about how the games were called. No need to second guess when the former defenders are TV and talking about how they would have done the same thing or they would have done it better ... hah ... probably they should talk about in game adjustments to look for in the 2nd half ...

  2. brett wyatt, April 6, 2015 at 7:26 p.m.

    paul gardner doesn't like that soccer is a contact sport. go watch badminton or something, and stop your crying.

  3. Kent James, April 6, 2015 at 7:31 p.m.

    Good column. I certainly agree that a "good" foul is an oxymoron, but Balboa's judgement that it was better for the defender to purposely foul Agudelo (and take the YC) than let him go towards goal is understandable. Which is why there is supposed to be a RC for a foul that denies a goalscoring opportunity (making that calculation different, though it still possible to prefer a foul and a RC if it's very late in the game and your team is protecting a lead). But assuming the tactical foul was not DGSO, that implies there was another defender in position to stop Agudelo, which I would argue no longer makes it a "smart" foul, unless you have no confidence in your other defender's ability to stop Agudelo cleanly (or even to slow him down so you can recover and try again). As PG says, it is the attitude (and it is NOT just defenders; Eric Wynalda always talks about "good" fouls). Most players and coaches would agree with Balboa's assessment of such a situation (and it was good that PG did not blame Balboa for articulating that position). If you want to eliminate such "smart" fouls, award a PK whenever one is committed (I think a PK is a more appropriate penalty for DGSO, since it restores to the offense what the defense legally took away).

  4. Robert Heinrich, April 6, 2015 at 7:32 p.m.

    Ironically, enforcement of the rules would probably increase popularity of the sport because it would inevitably increase scoring chances and goals. At least the casual American public would respond positively. It might even make the American game a more attractive alternative to what's in Europe. I would love to hear what the referees have to say about this.

  5. Kent James, April 6, 2015 at 7:42 p.m.

    Lalas comment is about an altogether different situation. It's about getting away with as much as you can (and in fairness to Lalas, if the opponents are getting away with it, its hard not to try to even the playing field). When two players go hard for a ball, they should be given the benefit of the doubt if there is contact, because it is a contact sport. On the other hand, when players are grabbing an opponent's shirt, that is a conscious effort to cheat, and it is never accidental. The fact that it is not called in the box is what contributes to the mayhem in the box, which is not conducive to good goals. I think if the refs called a foul anytime a player grabbed a shirt in the box (and either gave a PK or a DFK to the defenders; if they both are grabbing shirts, the ref calls nothing), the shirt grabbing would stop (but the players would need to be warned prior to the game, at least initially, and more importantly, the refs would have to call what they saw). There is an argument that a lot of shirt grabbing doesn't make a difference (when the ball does not go to the player whose shirt is being grabbed, e.g.) and therefore shouldn't be called, but I think it's worth calling it all (at least initially). Besides, if it doesn't make a difference, why do it? Unlike most contact fouls, shirt grabbing is an easy call to make. If the refs consistently called it every time it happened, it might be ugly for a few weeks, but players would adjust (they might move to grabbing arms, shoulders, etc., but you have start somewhere).

  6. cony konstin, April 6, 2015 at 7:52 p.m.

    There are too many fouls in soccer overall. It is time for soccer to adopt the futsal rule in regards to the 5 team fouls for each half. For each half after 5 team fouls there is an automatic penalty shot. I think fouls will be less if this rule was applied. Goalkeepers would be extremely angry because they would have be put on the spot more often. It is time for soccer to make some big changes.

  7. Allan Lindh, April 6, 2015 at 8:24 p.m.

    Cony's suggestion is a good one. Would be mayhem at first, but they would adjust. As to shirt grabbing in the box, that is easy. Post match video review. All blatant shirt grabbing and tackling, 1 game suspension for first offense, 2 for 2nd, 4 for 3rd, etc. All w/o pay. The hanky panky would stop within a month.

  8. Randy Vogt, April 6, 2015 at 8:36 p.m.

    I wrote an article four years ago proposing that soccer experiment with futsal's accumulation foul rule:
    Look at the comments and the majority of Soccer Americans who wrote their views were against what I proposed. I don't know if it would work but would love to see soccer experiment with an accumulation foul rule as it would really open the game up.

  9. Jack Patton, April 6, 2015 at 8:38 p.m.

    Brett, let me guess,, you're a leadfooted, minimally skilled former JV player

  10. Al Gebra, April 6, 2015 at 9:22 p.m.

    Brett Wyatt - You are just a man's man. The macho king. Cajones as big as bowling balls. Mr. Patton was close. You're lead-headed and give the Neanderthals a bad name.
    Guess what. Soccer is an incidental contact sport. It is intentionally a sport of finesse and skill.
    Oh, one last thing. I bet you suck at badminton.

  11. Joe Linzner, April 6, 2015 at 9:50 p.m.

    Professional fouls especially when interfering with a goal scoring opportunity should be red carded. As long as Referees refuse to do that it will continue to be abused. Soccer is a contact sport but it should be done fairly. Lalas is the most ridiculous color commentator to ever sit in a booth. His initial comment was idiotic and in the reply he says Besler did as much as he could, but he should have done better??? Logic ??? Makes no sense at all. He needs to stop loving to hear himself talk and think before he starts them lips afloppin'. Yes a contact sport and soon American soccer will be wearing helmets, shoulder pads, knee and hip protection and kidney belts and pads......Oh we already have a football game like that in this country...should combine the sports and then have an American World Cup.....No other countries allowed, that way we will always be world champions.....
    Funny though when Klinsmann mentioned we should play nastier the entire country bad-mouthed him!
    Funny, that!

  12. uffe gustafsson, April 6, 2015 at 10:05 p.m.

    Watching Liverpool game this weekend, it must be so easy to ref BPL games only the most flagrent fouls are called and barely that.
    I be run of the field by coaches if I would only call the fouls they call. Don't like what I see and it will trickle down to youth soccer.
    These tackles from behind is redicoulos and dangerous as well. Just because you get a toe on the ball after going thru the player just don't make it legal. Maybe I switch to reffing BPL seem like an easy job.LOL

  13. Alvaro Bettucchi, April 6, 2015 at 11:34 p.m.

    If you want to watch a contact, violent sport, watch American football. If you hope to watch a game showing the players skill and intelligence, and what is known as "the beautiful game", watch the sport of soccer with players playing by the rules. I watched the USA vs New Zeland match this past week. Yes, there were some contacts, but it was a clean, skillful, intelligent and fast spectacle. It is so superior to a game that allows for "professional fouls" to beat an opponent!

  14. Thomas Hosier, April 7, 2015 at 12:32 a.m.

    We constantly bitch about not developing Messi and Ronaldo like players and then the youth referees allow consistantly allow grabbing, shoving, tripping and intentional fouling without consquence. Why develop skills when refs are going let the thugs and muggers take their game away from them.

    What "we need" is skilled, creative players with vision. What "we need" is coaches that allow youth players to be creative and not coach the creativity out of them for sake of finding the "perfect system." What we don't need is coaches that teach thuggary and muggary as opposed to skills for the sake of winning .... but of course they have to win to keep their jobs.

    What we need is referees who will stop all the thuggary and muggary in youth soccer. Grabbing, pulling, pushing, shoving, and intentional fouling are not soccer and takes the game away from skilled players.

    When referees start taking the game away from the thugs and muggars by showing cards for poor conduct the US will start developing more skilled players. It is kind of like throwing the gladiators to the lions. Why develop "skills" and "creativity" .... just become another thug.

    See you at the pitch!

  15. R2 Dad, April 7, 2015 at 1:31 a.m.

    Everyone decries flopping, but it's a direct result of referees not calling fouls. It's now taken on a life of it's own (thank you Rivaldo and Busquets). If MLS is hoping the thrive and continue to attract top players from around the globe, they should at least encourage teams to attack and score rather than facilitate the defensive dark arts. Diving--they're all over it. Hacking and set piece wrassling--they don't know where to start.

  16. Michael Fitzgibbon, April 7, 2015 at 7:01 a.m.

    I am older than rustic. Played HS and college soccer in the 70's. Watched NASL Dallas Tornado in 1969, their first season, at 9 years old. Watched Spain versus Cypress live in 197I, saw Pele, Beckenbauer, Cosmos, et al. Fell in love with Cruyff and Clockwork Orange. I was an American football player too. And don't mean to be a braggert, but was a damn good tackler at both. We were rough, did not wear shin guards, fisticuffs were not a big deal. You get the picture. But we did not make the game a sham by cheating in order to win. If you lost, you lost with honor. If you don't think fair play and sportsmanship are important then what is the point in the game and sport? I am sick and tired of the professional foul, the grabbing and pushing in the box, and the diving. Eliminating the disease starts with the coaches! And then the players! And then the officials! And then the fans! All of us! The beautiful game comes before winning at all costs. It's easy to throw off a forward's balance if I am allowed to push, pull, or grab. Diving is a sin and should make all Americans puke. What the hell happened to integrity? It all started downhill when Schumacher got away with assault in 82 and then Maradona and the hand of god. Both incidents literally spit in the face of the beautiful game. FIFA has no spine and does nothing but take the money. Look at what happened to Marc Pelosi. Absolutely sickening. Goons, thugs, and cheating have no place in any sport.

  17. Carlos Drake, April 7, 2015 at 9:19 a.m.

    Paul - lame article, must have been a slow day in the office?

  18. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 9:28 a.m.

    Michael, it should start with the coaches and players but it never will. Must be enforced by officials. Leagues must mandate it. Refs must abide. This garbage soccer has already plagued the USA youth. Go to any youth game you want - Dallas Cup, Disney Cup, Academy Games, etc. - and you will see just how bad it is. You will hardly ever see a Pk called or a red card, no matter how obvious, especially if you are home team. What you do see is a lot of warnings to players. It is now accepted as the way to play. Ussda talks so Mich about development of players yet allow this Reffing to take place. Its a joke to watch an Academy game and how it is reffed. Its just a more physical version of USA youth soccer. Nothing much more. What are we to expect from the rest if our elite play this way? Coaches adjust their tactics accordingly and have to send in the big dirty guys to have a chance to win. How else will they keep their jobs? Easy to promote one thing and do another.

  19. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

    Paul, great article. I leads into youth soccer Reffing. Glad to see that the morons that don't find this type of play as anti soccer are outnumbered here.

  20. Al Baer, April 7, 2015 at 9:32 a.m.

    As a referee I expect players to foul when they feel it necessary. As was pointed out the best way to handle it is for the referee to strictly enforce the rule, which includes red cards when called for. This will never go away entirely, but can be improved by showing cards

  21. Will G, April 7, 2015 at 9:43 a.m.

    Laughable article at best. And for those that want to turn the outdoor game into futsal - what an absolute joke. I could just imagine 20 freestyle tricksters out on the pitch showing off their 50 consecutive step overs and triple lindy spins with a defender never getting within 5 yards. If that is what you think football is about I would suggest you stick to football played on wood with a heavy mini ball and not worry about what happens on grass.

  22. Kent James, April 7, 2015 at 10 a.m.

    Michael F., you got it right. It's about integrity; if you have to cheat to win, what's the point in winning? And if cheaters are allowed to win, why play the game? Judging fouls can be difficult when players are aggressively going for a ball and there's contact, and who got to the ball first is the determinant of which player committed the foul, so referees can be forgiven for not getting all of those right. But conscious decisions to cheat (shirt-grabbing and tactical fouls) must be punished consistently or the game loses integrity. Calling such fouls is not about "sissifying" the sport, but about restoring its moral foundation.

  23. John Polis, April 7, 2015 at 10:23 a.m.

    Having been around the game a few years, and knowing Paul G. for many of those, I concur with his analysis here. Accepting cynical fouls as part of the game, which professional defenders in the modern game do, has to be traced back to the fact that referees are often a bit lax in doing their jobs. Especially in MLS, where a lot of the officials (at least in past years) seem to want to be buddy-buddy with the players and are often seen b.s.'ing with the refs who are smiling and joking in the midst of the game. Cynical fouls, though accepted as part of the game by some, should be dealt with by issuing a yellow or red card, as appropriate. But in order for the effects of such fouls to be minimized, each offense needs to be dealt with swiftly and consistently. It bothers me as well to hear our announcers carry on in a way that they look at the game still solely as players and they forget that they are communicating with an audience, many of whom are still learning the game. There is a way to be an ex-pro on television utilizing experience in the game to bring colorful analysis to the broadcast, but at the same time look at the game in a much broader context of the audience to which the ex-pro is communicating.

  24. Tim Brown, April 7, 2015 at 10:44 a.m.

    Hey Michael. I played soccer in Dallas too and went to many Dallas Tornado Games. Who did you play for ? Now that is out of the way, there is too much fouling and holding in the current game. But you guys must have not ever seen old school soccer or videos of Pele play. it is part of the game and players do sometimes foul to gain an advantage on defense and offense during the game. The purpose to Win the game at the professional level. The futsal idea of PK after 5 fouls is stupid for real outdoor soccer. What makes the sport great is that it is a big deal to score a goal. Unlike most other USA sports. You guys that strive for some idealistic game should get into gymnastics or swimming.

  25. Daniel Clifton, April 7, 2015 at 11:14 a.m.

    I think this was an excellent article by PG. I also have enjoyed reading most of these comments. I too am tired of seeing all of the holding, pushing, and shoving that goes on in the game, and the dangerous slide tackles from behind that still occur with way too much regularity. I like the idea of awarding free kicks once a certain number of fouls are accumulated. I think a penalty kick may be too automatic. How about a free kick somewhere just outside the box?

  26. cony konstin, April 7, 2015 at 11:32 a.m.

    Yes soccer and even futsal are physical games but there is still to much fouling in outdoor soccer. To me it is out of control. The refs are average at best and they spend more time looking for someone who is going to take a dive than actually paying attention to the fouling. Less fouls equal more soccer beauty. That is why futsal is a very elegant game to watch because you must play good futsal and not depend on fouling. Is futsal still a physical game? Yes. But it is exciting and entertaining as well because there are rules to help stay that way. All I am saying is that soccer needs change. And changing the rule about team fouls is not a bad rule to implement. In my oponion it will make soccer more exciting to watch because players would have to really be good to play and not rely on butchery and physicality. Skill would be the number one priority and not cracking someone from behind. I have been coaching soccer for 40 years and I have been involve in futsal since the early 80's. I have also been a FIFA coaching instructor in futsal since 2005. Futsal has changed a lot since the 80's. It has evolved especially the rules and the ball itself. It is time for soccer to evolve as well especially when it comes to an abundance of fouling.

  27. Will G, April 7, 2015 at 11:39 a.m.

    Could we be taking this a bit too far calling it deliberate cheating. Professional fouls are part of every sport played with a ball. They happen in basketball, American football and soccer. For those that think this is deliberate cheating I would ask why you haven't mentioned the other 50 possible ways to cheat. We should ban subs in the last 3 minutes of a match because we really know that the manager is just trying to waste time, or cheat. We should admonish players that take a throw in when they really know they touched it last...even though the referee pointed in their direction...cheaters. The guy that moves a free kick up 2 feet, cheater, he should be sent off. The guy that scores a goal when being offsides that the AR missed...cheater. If you want to talk about the clutching and grabbing in the penalty area, fine, we all hate it. But to label guys as cheaters and say they lack integrity is a bit much. Anyone who has ever played this game has cheated in some way by the definition some are speaking about above.

  28. Mike Jacome, April 7, 2015 at 12:23 p.m.

    Michael Fitzgibbon, I absolutely disagree with you. "If you lost, you lost with honor." Give me a break, so if an attacker would go by himself towards the empty goal you have to let him score. Basically, "people should know when they are defeated", As a player you should fight until the end. "Never accept defeat" Players are like soldiers in the battlefield, no make an analogy that some people may not like, but it is true. However, although everything is fair in love and war, in football there are rules, and although you fight to the end there is a price you should pay if you bend or break the rules. and that is fair enough. Luis Suarez did not accept defeat at the 121st minute against Ghana and he sacrificed himself by making a handball infraction and conceded a penalty. The Ghanean striker did not convert the penalty and Uruguay reached the semi-finals in WC 2010. Was that cheating? Many think so. I don't. that was a last resource strategy and sacrifice for a higher cause. It should be praised, not condemned. The only think I am against is violent reckless fouls to become the norm as an excuseof a last resourse "proffesional" foul. Other than that I support Balboa 120%

  29. Mark Konty, April 7, 2015 at 2 p.m.

    @ Al, soccer is not an "incidental" contact sport. The Laws of the Game allow several types of intentional contact. Gardner, and several commenters, don't understand the meaning of the word "cheating". A player is cheating when he or she expects to get away with the rule-breaking and they seek a competitive advantage through their deception. Committing a foul isn't cheating, its following the rules. You know a foul will be called, you do it anyway knowing that there will be consequences, consequences that the rules dictate: ergo: fouls are not cheating.

  30. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 2:10 p.m.

    Mike, I understand ur argument to a certain point but to say Suarez hand ball was for a higher cause? What was the higher cause? The definition of cheating is winning or trying to win by trying or getting away with knowingly breaking the rules of the game. Suarez paid the price but his team got through mostly because he cheated. I wouldn't want my national team to get through on a hand ball so I don't understand ur higher cause argument. All Suarez did was help a team that didn't deserve to go through go through. They obviously didn't play well enough to deserve to beat Ghana. I bet you Ghana is praising it. And why should it be praised? Bottom line is that players will naturally get away with as much as possible to get a win. This is why if you want to clean the game you start with the league implementing rules or making sure they get message out clear to refs on how strict they will be so teams and players can adjust. If basketball players were given 10 fouls to give you would see the fouls per game go up drastically and immediately. If NFL players were allowed to hold and hit with helmet you would naturally see many more injuries and uglier games. It starts with the league. Question for all you guys that disagree with Paul. Would you watch basketball if they allowed 10 fouls a game and 4 technicals ?? After all they will be warriors fighting yo the end, right?? Lol. You guys are funny

  31. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 2:14 p.m.

    Mark is right. Its called taking advantage of the situation. If you lack skill in attacking or defending but want to compete you do as much hitting grabbing biting as ref, and therefore league, let's you. Lift weights as much as possible, practice tackling a punching bag, etc. Reward the league that allows this with making a bigger joke of it by playing this way

  32. Rick Estupinan, April 7, 2015 at 2:59 p.m.

    Robert Heinrich,you may be wright,Americans and the public in general may appreciate the game better.So many times I see refs stopping and punishing defenders for minor infractions that should be ignored.After all Football,(Soccer)is a contact sport,a men's game.It would be so unattractive to see a defender just watching an attacking player approaching the goal line,and not doing anything possible to stop him from scoring,as long as it is not an intentional injury causing tackle.

  33. Thomas Hosier, April 7, 2015 at 3:06 p.m.

    Me, again I am tired of seeing skilled players mugged by thugs. The consequences are not being enforced as prescribed by the laws. No matter how you justify it a foul is cheating. With that said, if I saw a few "professional fouls" during a youth soccer match I wouldn't even be typing this note, but what I see is games full of constant grabbing, shoving, tripping and fouling with very little consequence. The referee may call the foul and award a direct kick ... but when the game resumes .... it is the same old thuggary and muggary! @ Cony .... keep on preaching change. I would like to see more skilled players at the youth level and more responsible referees. See you at the pitch

  34. Mike Jacome, April 7, 2015 at 4:23 p.m.

    John Bishop,The higher cause is winning the battle...Is it that hard to understand? Is like I game of chess, you sacrifice your Queen or your Rook, but the higher cause is wiining the match, the abttle the game in this case and advance to the Semi-finals. Suarez knew the consequences because he knew the rules, he followed the rules and as a result he was ejected, a PK was awarded and he was not allowed to play de Semis against the Netherlands. Where is the cheating? He played by the rules and he expected a punishment. To not cheat, according to your arguments he should have to remain frozen and let the football kiss the back of the net??

  35. Mike Jacome, April 7, 2015 at 4:38 p.m.

    John Bishop, I know that with your argument you are trying to better the sport and I respect that, but you make little sense. "All Suarez did was help a team that didn't deserve to go through go through." Seriously? Now you are using deserving or not deserving argument? We see constantly how a team seems superior than the other for 90% of the match and they end up losing, is that fair? Fairness has nothing to do with anything, whoever scores more goals wins the match is that easy. So according to you if a team is overwhelmingly inferior to lets say FCBarcelona, why to bother to play and compete with them, after all if we beat them by luck or by a miracle or by "cheating" which in my book is not... we are making the sport little favor. The US beat Spain in 2009 and reach the Confederation Cup Final, it was obvious that Spain was the better team. Did I care that we went to the final being underplayed? I did not. Would I have cared if we went to the final "Cheating" Suarez style. NOT AT ALL.

  36. Thomas Hosier, April 7, 2015 at 5:35 p.m.

    Mike ... he cheated. He got caught. He paid the penalty. That's a good thing. All most of us are basically saying is it is time to make the thugs and muggers pay the price. Holding, grabbing, pushing and intentionally tripping are violations and should be sanctioned appropriately. The problem being for the most part these fouls are being ignored and/or there is no serious consequence ... so why develop your skills if thugs and muggers rule the game. See you at the pitch!

  37. Kent James, April 7, 2015 at 6:03 p.m.

    I would like to distinguish between the players who knowingly break the rules, know they will get caught, and are willing to accept the punishment (an honorable way to "take one for the team") and those who are trying to bend (or break) the rules as much as possible without getting caught or paying a penalty (grabbing someone's shorts out of sight of the referee, e.g.). Tactical, non-violent fouls are in the first category (even knowingly taking the red card for DGSO in the last minute of a game). While those fouls might be considered 'smart', because they increase the chance of the team doing the fouling to win, as a neutral, we should do what we can to make it so that a player never makes the calculation that it is in his best interest to break the rules (by awarding a PK for DGSO, for example, since most fans would rather see a fast break turn into a chance on goal than be disrupted illegally, even if a red card is the result). The second category I think are much worse, because it suggests a belief in a cynical, win at all costs (fair or foul) approach to the game. While others may disagree, to me, if you have to cheat to win, then that victory does not prove you were better than your opponent, and since I think one of the primary purposes of sport is to test yourself against your opponent, cheating negates the victory. On the other hand, if a referee error (missing a PK foul, e.g.) 'gives' you a victory, that is only mildly tainted (unless you've paid the ref to miss such fouls!), since that is more akin to being lucky or unlucky, and as we all know, it is better to be lucky than good...

  38. Kent James, April 7, 2015 at 6:17 p.m.

    The "all's fair in love and war" argument doesn't fly, since that would condone beating the crap out of someone like Messi (assuming you could catch him to beat him) since he is too dangerous to allow on the field (see the treatment Pele received before there were cards). Heck, that doesn't even fly in warfare (since we have the Geneva conventions). It's actually easier to play very hard within the rules (since you are never having to think "should I foul? Will I get caught? Is it better for the team if I foul?"; cheating, like lying, gets complicated...). To keep the beautiful game simple, it is important that refs quickly and decisively stamp out cynical play, so players don't have to feel that they have to cheat to keep up with their opponents.

  39. Mike Jacome, April 7, 2015 at 7 p.m.

  40. Mike Jacome, April 7, 2015 at 7:01 p.m.

    Kent James "I would like to distinguish between the players who knowingly break the rules, know they will get caught, and are willing to accept the punishment (an honorable way to "take one for the team") and those who are trying to bend (or break) the rules as much as possible without getting caught or paying a penalty (grabbing someone's shorts out of sight of the referee, e.g.). " THANK YOU!!

  41. Mike Jacome, April 7, 2015 at 7:11 p.m.

    Who is a cheater? Someone who honestly resources to the very last option to save his team and openly, knowing the rules break them to prevent a catastrophe. And takes the ponishment with his head held high. Or the sneaky striker who dives in the area trying to fool the referee into getting a PK? There is a big difference, one is honest and open, the other is plain deceit. To me the latter is cheating, the former is just an infraction... To close this matter for good dear Paul gardner, There are rules, if you break them you pay the price. The rest is in the gray zone. If you should or not promote breaking the rules depending on the circumstances and wrongfully misrepresent them and mix them up with cheating behavior is subjective and the personal opinion of each individual.

  42. Jim Welnetz, April 7, 2015 at 9:15 p.m.

    I remember before the '92 W. C . in the US there was a program aimed at teaching the US youth an appreciation of soccer. I was amazed and totally shocked when Lalas said that when you go up to compete for a header you get your arm over the other guy's... "and sometimes you discourage him by giving him a shot with your elbow." Here's one of our "heros" saying it's ok to elbow an opponent. He was never called on the carpet for that remark , no wonder he still thinks cheating is OK

  43. beautiful game, April 7, 2015 at 9:43 p.m.

    Good stuff Paul, who forgot to mention that 90% of MLS TV commentators are out to lunch and suffocate the game with nonsense talk. It's safe to say that both Lalas and Balboa needed to be extra physical to succeed, and that in itself tells the reader that they were players of less talent and more brute.

  44. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 10:06 p.m.

    Mike, exactly. He knew the rule. Broke it. Was penalized. He knew the consequences. I guess the higher objectives are up for debate. All I'm saying is I would rather my national team win without having to do what he did. You can't argue that you would rather have the USA bully themselves into a final rather than doing it by outplaying their opponents. The problem we have in USA is too many people accept we play inferior soccer and should try to win by any means and therefore applaud that type of behavior. Not good for our kids to hear that. Would you like to see our USA defense just drop back in front of goal and play goalie in last minutes of game to beat Belgium? And claim it was for a greater good? Then our kids would see that as heroic, wouldn't they? Greater good? I guess we both have different opinions on greater good.

  45. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 10:13 p.m.

    Mike, and that's the difference between you and me. I do care that we did not deserve to beat Spain but did. I do care that we conform with not having skill and therefore must compensate with defensive punt the ball tactics. If we as a country applaud the "win by any means necessary because we have no skill" attitude/tactic we will never progress as a soccer nation. By your same argument, what country have you seen being successful with that thought process? Germany changed their ways to teach more skill because they were following that very path you applaud. Look at them now!! If you suck then you play Barcelona like Chelsea did but I think Chelsea lost some fans with the way they played. I know they didn't gain any and that's because very few people want to watch that garbage. There should be absolutely no excuse for allowing our youth that way. I hope we can agree at oeastw with that.

  46. John Bishop, April 7, 2015 at 10:24 p.m.

    Whether it is it is not cheating is besides the point. Point should be we want to develop better youth players to represent us and we want to watch better soccer being played in our leagues. To achieve this we must demand that our leagues instruct their refs to strictly and swiftly enforce the laws of the game. Problem solved. Don't leave it to the coaches or to players to do on their own. Some of the arguments made here in those defensive tactics further prove why these rules should be strongly enforced by the only authority on the field. The center ref.

  47. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 9:07 a.m.

    Mike,the rules state that no one other than the goalie can use his hands to defend the goal. You state that knowing the consequence makes it not cheating and is actually heroic because its for the greater good of winning the battle. So if you follow that theory nothing is actually cheating. You could try and play with 12 players knowing it's against the rules and it will be heroic because you did it knowing Tue consequence. Or how about taking out the other teams best players with both studs up so he can't play anymore? Not cheating because ur doing it knowing the consequence, right? Scoring a goal with ur hand can lead to a red card if caught. Also OK as long as you know the consequence. All of these things are done for the greater good which according to you is winning. There is not one thing that can't be seen as for a greater purpose with ur argument.

  48. Wesley Hunt, April 8, 2015 at 9:23 a.m.

    I have run a futsal league for seven years and I have also done some refereeing in both games. All of my referees were outdoor referees first before doing futsal. It usually takes them a season to get used to the rules. In outdoor the consequence, unless in the box, for fouling is three options....change of possession, usually not of great consequence, yellow card putting the player at one infraction away from being ejected, or straight up red, which really does change things. No ref wants to be the one to change the outcome of the game. The easy thing psychologically speaking is for the ref to do nothing by ignoring small fouls or having a chat with the players when the foul should have been carded. The problem is even worse in the box when the foul called can result in changing the score of the game. No wonder so many small infractions get ignored on set pieces.

  49. Wesley Hunt, April 8, 2015 at 9:24 a.m.

    Of course the players will play to limit of the restrictions that the ref imposes, that is a given and it is foolish to assume otherwise. What my refs have discovered is that it is easier to call those small fouls when there is an accumulation. Not so much is riding on the ref as in using strictly the card system. As I tell my refs “please call the fouls!”. It becomes very exciting for the spectators and players when penalty kicks begin and believe me the coaches and the players will back off of the fouling once that happens to their team. The referee still determines what is legal contact by the rules of their game be it futsal or soccer but that line is determined by the referee’s judgement and that determines how physical the game is allowed to become. What is different is that the consequences are more gradual so it is easier to call the foul than pulling a card out of your pocket. In addition he kind of persistent tag team fouling that targets one skill player is greatly reduced. Finally, as Cony said, “the game is more opened up and exciting”. My refs have come to really like this system. They still carry cards for the most egregious fouls but use them far less.

  50. Wesley Hunt, April 8, 2015 at 9:26 a.m.

    All rules for any game do is shape the experience for all involved. I played American football as a kid and for a Rugby club in my 20s. I don’t have a problem with contact. However, if I wanted Rugby I would watch a Rugby match. The contact is straight up and legal and there is far less cheating than in soccer. Soccer, in my opinion, should be more about skill. Whatever the amount of contact you want to allow in the sport can be up to debate. However, the line between what is allowed and is not should be clearer so that there is less opportunity for players to always be testing the limits of what they can get away with. I think a futsal accumulated foul system would allow referees the tools to better define what is legal and non legal contact during the soccer games.

  51. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 9:56 a.m.

    So in reality many of you have changed your stance from the first comments. What started as calling out players for cheating turned into making sure referees call a game correctly and enforce the rules. I don't think anyone would argue the need to have referees call games better. The problem as I see it is that referees don't start disciplining players hard enough at the young ages. A late challenge that can injure a player is the same in the professional ranks as it is a 7 years old. Both should be dealt with the same way. A red is a matter what age. A caution is a matter what age. This is what will change our game for the better. There will always be professional fouls and as I said before, anyone who has played this game has cheated at some time. I agree with what many of you are saying but it is not the cheating you are speaking of, it is the refereeing that you have a problem with.

  52. Mike Jacome, April 8, 2015 at 10:44 a.m.

    John Bishop:"the rules state that no one other than the goalie can use his hands to defend the goal. You state that knowing the consequence makes it not cheating and is actually heroic because its for the greater good of winning the battle. So if you follow that theory nothing is actually cheating."... Then why are there penalties and free kicks in the sport??? To penalize infractions...If we were to assume that no one will commit an infraction...Or on your words "Cheat" Then get rid of free kicks, penalties, red and yellow cards and so on...Lets face it new rules will develop, and players will commit infractions. What was allowed in the past is not allowed now. 20 years ago the keeper was allowed to grab the ball in his area even if one of his team mates pass him the ball. Now they are not. Ifthey do, they are penalized. Making an infraction is NOT Cheating. Infraction ARE PART of the game. You can commit the infractions as TOOLS to accomplish your mission AS LONG AS you pay the price (Ejection, PKs, Free Kicks, Yellow card, and so forth)

  53. Wesley Hunt, April 8, 2015 at 11:04 a.m.

    The accumulated foul system works extremely well with youth players. Refereeing at that age is half instructional and half about enforcing the rules of the game. Most 7 year olds are not cynacilly fouling. Contact is fun! But we have rules. If all you have is a yellow and red card in your pocket the only option you have is to caution and then throw little Johnny out of the game becasuse contact just feels so good to him. You now have a kid crying and extremely embarrassed, a coach screaming at you, and parents ready to take your head off at the end of the game. It is like trying to kill a fly with a sledge hammer. Accumulated fouls are a good way around that. Talk to the kid about what is expected record the foul and let it go to penalties if it keeps happening. Takes the pressure the ref of having to send a kid off. Once the penalties start it will become his coach and teammates who will put the pressure on those fouling to stop. I have seen it work in futsal so why not soccer?

  54. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 11:25 a.m.

    Wesley - I agree with your premise, however I don't think your solution will solve for the real problem. The very thing you speak about is the issue of subjectivity. How will a kid ever learn that a late tackle from behind is an offense that will get you sent off if he is never sent off. I agree, there aren't many cynical fouls at 7-10, but there are very dangerous fouls because players are out of control. In every other sport, an infraction is met with the same consequence from age 5 to 35...why is our game different. How are you going to teach little Jimmy that I am not going to call a foul on you since you are 8 but when you are 15 you will get called for it? So he gets to get away with the infraction for 7 years and by then it is ingrained in his head that he is not committing an offense. Kids can foul out in youth basketball just like they can in the NBA, why can't we play with the same rules for kids and adults?

  55. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 11:37 a.m.

    Mike, OK so then what is cheating in soccer according to you? Give us some examples. Diving is not cheating then, right? Because it is penalized by ref? Neither is biting someone, right? Both result in free kicks if called. What you are claiming is that there exists no cheating in soccer or any other sport for that matter. These examples I just gave you can also be done strategically as part of a game plan.

  56. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 11:52 a.m.

    John - you should be the one defining what cheating is since you are insistent that cheating exists? We are getting lost in semantics and the word "cheating" holds different meanings to different people. I'll pose this question to you. Since you believe diving is cheating (and punishable) do you feel that a goalkeeper coming off his line before a penalty is struck is cheating? Do you think the guys that obviously fouls an opponent but throws his hands up to try and tell the ref he didn't make contact is cheating? What about the striker that knew he was offsides but continued to score because it was not called? Is he a cheater? The guy that gets a free kick even though he wasn't touched by the defender? Should he tell the ref he wasn't touched and give the ball back to the other team? If he doesn't, is he a cheater?

  57. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 12:55 p.m.

    Will, I am not one to define what cheating is for everyone. I did define what cheating is to me. I think the difference in opinions stem from what we would each rather see in a game. I would rather see Tue skilled Not punished constantly by tactical fouling. I would like to see the brutes forced to play defense by actually reacting with his feet instead of having to foul as only resort. As far as all ur questions, I believe that cheating is when you purposely infringe the laws of the game to gain an advantage in the game especially when little to no actual skill is involved. Cheating is part of the game but I would like to see refs swiftly and accurately act against it to limit it as much as possible. If you hit a goalie to injure him on a clear, that to me is cheating. If you systematically hit other teams best player it is cheating. It is also and only tactical because refs are lenient. Not because it should be partof how a game should be played. Fans get cheated out of watching a skillfully played game. That's why most people will pay top dollar to watch a Messi. Not a defensive brute. My daughter played yesterday. She us the most skilled on her team. Varsity team as freshman. Well known. Opposing coach ordered his team to hit her every time she got the ball. She got hit 5 times in the back by same player in 1st 1/2. Not one yellow card. 3 warnings. So she hit back. No one showed up that day to see that garbage. Ref dictated it. Great tactic but only because ref sucked. We were all cheated including the dirty player because she didn't learn how to defend a top player. 1-1 tie.

  58. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 1:06 p.m.

    A dive is cheating if you get away with it on a pk call and its an attempt to cheat if they do get carded. Same logic for a deliberate handball only that in this case even when caught the defender acjeived his negative purpose of stopping the goal from being scored. It us obviously not enough punishment to get red card in a knock out round. Its not a fair outcome. Therefore and logically it is cheating. For a team to advance on a deliberate handball is a great payoff for just receiving a red card. I certainly don't want to see more of those games decided that way. And if that's heroic to most then what kind of games are we in for? So to mike and others here Fair Play means nothing?

  59. Geoff Strauch, April 8, 2015 at 1:37 p.m.

    So let's take this statement and the subsequent debate to the next logical step. Why bother with any laws/rules for any sport? Just put the players/athletes on and let the best "cheat/s" win. Who cares about showing any form of skill, sportsmanship or respect for laws/rules. A "cheat" is by definition someone who does not abide by the laws/rules.
    "Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage".
    Simple. The excuses given by Lalas, Balboa and some people on this forum are pathetic. By cheating you are admitting that you are not good enough/your opponent is better. In that case, find the level you should be at and if that includes not playing, so be it. How naive of me and many other sports coaches/referees to think that abiding by the laws/rules of a game are so out of date and old fashioned. And the excuse that "at the top level it is all about winning" is a load of crap. What example is being set for young people. Get whatever you want in life by cheating? Pathetic. And we wonder why we have so many problems in society today. A "cheat" is a "cheat" Plain and simple. How sad that certain people just don't recognize that fact."Professional foul" An oxymoron statement if ever there was one, with moron being the operative word.

  60. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 2:18 p.m.

    Ridiculous statement of the year candidate above - And the next logical step with your philosophy would be to banish any player that commits any infraction because we don't have room for that cheater in the beautiful game and they are not abiding by the laws of the game (your words not mine). Give it 2 matches and every player in the world would no longer be able to play because they would be cheaters.

  61. Al Gebra, April 8, 2015 at 2:20 p.m.

    In the 60' I played American football and i always heard the coaches say that football was like being in combat. Then I went to Vietnam and was in more than 50 firefights. Guess what. Football, in whatever form, is not at all like combat. Players do not act like soldiers and visa versa.

    Then I read where Mike Jacome stated that "Players are like soldiers in the battlefield, to make an analogy that some people may not like, but it is true."
    Guess what again Mike. Not true! Players do not act like soldiers and vice versa.!

  62. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 2:36 p.m.

    Al - Thank you for your service to our Country! His analogy might not be correct, but the premise was. In the professional game (outside the US) these players might not be fighting for their lives like you so bravely did, but they are in many circumstances fighting for their livelihoods. If a squad player were to duck out of every tackle with the thought of "I can't foul him or I am cheating" then they wouldn't last very long in the game.

  63. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 3:13 p.m.

    Will, so what is cheating to you?

  64. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 3:21 p.m.

    Will, has it ever occurred to you that maybe some players have no business making a living as soccer players? Nobody is saying a player should duck out of a tackle. We are saying they should be forced to do it following the rules of the game. To not be allowed to manhandle skilled players which is what most pay to see. A goal denied by a handball done deliberately should not only be red carded. Should be followed with 5 game suspension which I am sure would happen if it became chronic. Just like the biting incident. That assures that players will think long and hard from infringing those rules again.

  65. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 3:25 p.m.

    And in no way does playing soccer even remotely compare to fighting an actual war. That's disrespectful to this veteran yo even suggest. If players want to go to war so bad then join the army. There are more ways to earn a livelihood. Youth coaches fight for their livelihoods as well, you know. That's why we see so much garbage soccer and no development in USA. They are paid to win and must do whatever it takes to keep their jobs. Is that cool with you?

  66. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 3:28 p.m.

    I really don't know if I can come up with something between the first and last whistle. I think diving is the closest thing to cheating we have currently. But is it really worse than the defender who tries to sell to the ref that he didn't commit a foul that he obviously did? I struggle with that one. I would say playing a player not on the roster, or an older kid in youth soccer is cheating. I am trying not to blur the lines between unsportsmanlike and cheating because to me they are two different things. Trying to injure another player is unsportsmanlike but I have a hard time defining it as cheating. Please don't confuse what I am saying with being happy about the game today - there are a ton of things we can and should clean up...I am just having a hard time qualifying some of these examples as cheating. I think a cheat is a disgusting word and should be reserved for the disgusting few, not every football player that has ever broken a rule.

  67. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 3:37 p.m.

    John Bishop - I agree with you 100% and I don't recall ever saying otherwise. I am all for biting, stopping a goal with a handball and blatant attempts to injure players should be dealt with much more vigor and the penalties should be much, much more sever. If you have ever played the game at a high level you would know that the difference between a good clean tackle and a tackle worthy of being sent off can be a matter of milliseconds.

  68. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 3:37 p.m.

    Will, fair enough. But to me an intentional 2 studs up to obviously hurt another player is cheating. You could not possibly say a team was playing fair if they decided to take out the best 2 players on the other team risking 2 red cards in return but certainly achieving overall goal of leveling playing level to have a chance. That can't be just unsportsmanlike. They should go to jail for that. I think the overall problem on this blog is that most of us are sick of watching thuggery muggery in all levels ages of soccer in USA. Skill is being oppressed. We feel cheated. That's for sure

  69. John Bishop, April 8, 2015 at 3:47 p.m.

    Will, I do understand how close it comes in a tackle and nothing is ever completely fair but you have to pick your poison. I would rather see a few innocent players get sent off on tackles than skilled players injured or taken down 5 times in a game before a yellow is issued. Neymar is a flopper and should be carded right away to make sure he abides and gives us a better show. But to have him out of the world cup for an intentional foul cheats us all of a better once every 4 years experience. That happened only because the refs allowed Brazil to bully their way through the rounds. Colombia saw enough and took out their best player. Call it what you want but it all comes down to the same thing.

  70. Scott Johnson, April 8, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    A few things: a) If an activity is "cheating", then it should be punishable by a lengthy suspension, longer than the one-game mandatory for a red or accumulation of yellows, and adjudicated by league officials, not just the match referee. Tampering with balls, e.g. would be cheating. Bribing the referee, cheating. A hard foul from behind, even DSGO, isn't "cheating" as it's a normal part of the game. Nor is throwing high and inside in a baseball game cheating, nor is intentionally fouling a poor free throw shooter in basketball.

  71. Scott Johnson, April 8, 2015 at 4:52 p.m.

    b) Futsal's "accumulated fouls" rule is interesting. One other thing about futsal is that there are TWO penalty distances; one that's near-automatic (for DFK fouls in the box), and one further out for accumulated fouls. Perhaps soccer could do the same thing--for off-ball fouls in the box that today make refs swallow their whistle because a PK is too harsh, have a "lesser" PK: Rather than taken from the spot 12 yards from the goal, it's taken from the edge of the box--and the goalie can stand anywhere in the 6 yard box rather than being required to stand on his line. A regular PK is scored about 76% of the time in pro soccer; DFKs are, at best, converted about 25% of the time or so (the success rate depends on where the restart occurs). Having a restart that produces more goals than a DFK, but not as many as a PK, might be beneficial.

  72. Geoff Strauch, April 8, 2015 at 5:06 p.m.

    Interesting how my words have been twisted to suit someones beliefs/condoning of cheating. I did not mention fouls that are accidental.I spoke of CHEATING.BIG difference.

  73. Will G, April 8, 2015 at 5:45 p.m.

    Scott Johnson - you have hit the nail on the head and brought this conversation back to where it needs to be. This is not about cheating, it's not about accidental or on purpose, and it's not about abiding by the rules of the game (which are broken over 20 times each match). It is about coming up with a consistent way to punish egregious infractions to the point where we begin to see those infractions ceasing to exist. My last thought on this - the consistent punishment needs to start at the lowest levels so our youth begin to learn early on what is and isn't acceptable.

  74. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 12:10 a.m.

    Scott, an interesting suggestion (and there is certainly validity to your observation that refs hesitate to call fouls in the box because of the severity of the penalty). I've sometimes wondered if we'd be better off giving free kicks inside the box (and letting the defensive team set a wall), and getting rid of penalty kicks altogether. When the ball is near the edge of the area, just a few inches means the difference between an almost sure goal or just the possibility of the goal. On the positive side, such a system would essentially transfer the danger averted to the DFK (fouls committed in less dangerous areas would result in less dangerous DFKs). The downside would be getting too close to the goal (the ultimate danger area during the course of play) would make the DFK less dangerous. Maybe a PK could be awarded for fouls inside the 6 yd box, or (additionally) any foul in the box that warranted a yellow or red card. It would be interesting to see how tweaking the rules affect the game.

  75. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 12:24 a.m.

    Will, while I agree with much of what you say, I disagree (somewhat) with two of your points. First, yes, it is more important to get bad behavior out of the game than to get caught up in semantics about how to categorize fouls. But to get the bad behavior out of the game, you have figure out why it's occurring in the first place. And there it is important to distinguish between accidental fouls and purposeful ones. Calling a game tightly may have some effect on accidental fouls (by discouraging any contact for fear of fouling), but that may hurt the game (by discouraging intense play). After all, accidental fouls are accidental, so they are harder to stop. Those are the fouls that I think a DFK are sufficient to punish. But purposeful fouls should be easier to stop, since these are fouls players are consciously choosing to commit. We just have to change the calculation (and that's what the cards and penalty kicks are for). And these are the fouls that if referees do not stop quickly, will turn a game into a slugfest. Cards are supposed to change the calculation, but may not always be enough (or, ironically, may be too harsh and less likely to be used). And this is where we need to adjust the rules so that fewer players can say "it is in the best interests of my team if I choose to foul this player". So when a player is fouled, it may not matter physically whether the player was fouled accidentally or purposefully (a tripped player still falls down), but for the good of the game, a purposeful foul needs a stronger punishment (a card) so that it doesn't happen again.

  76. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 12:33 a.m.

    My second point of disagreement (again, a minor point) is your suggestion that it is important to have consistent punishment when kids are young (I think you are suggesting that if a kid does something that an adult would be ejected for, then the kid should be ejected). I think I agree with your overall concern (teaching kids that fouling is unacceptable at an early age and consistently enforcing that), but I do think it is important that referees adjust their style to different age groups. Many young kids don't know their behavior is not okay, and need to have it explained to them. Of course, if they don't get it, then yeah, you might have to crack down harder. Referees should be consistent within age groups, but punishments should be adjusted (made more severe) as the kids get older. The kind of cynical fouling that can destroy games doesn't usually show up until 11 or 12.

  77. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 12:41 a.m.

    The thing that bothers me most about comments such as those by Lalas (who I otherwise like as a commentator) are that they suggest that it is naive, or somehow unprofessional, to not foul as much as the ref will let you get away with. And that suggests a cynical approach to the game. If the referees enforce the rules as they should, playing within the rules should not only be the more honorable way to play, but it should also be more effective, because the rules should punish people who do not abide by them (and if not, then the rules need to be adjusted). One can be very aggressive, while still playing by the rules. If one goes to the ball hard, the only question is whether or not you are going to beat all of your opponents to the ball. If yes, you go for it; if no, you don't, you get ready to defend them against their possession of it. It's kind of a simple game, which is one of the things that makes it beautiful.

  78. Mike Jacome, April 9, 2015 at 3:30 a.m.

    And what Lalas said is the truth. It would be naive. Any other teams and countries use those tools (breaking the rules at the expense of punishment) if we are going to be the only ones not using those tools we will be NAIVE. Oh hell, But we won't be cheaters, we'll keep watching others raising the championship cup, but at least we can sleep with our clean conscious knowing that they won because they cheated... and perhaps, only perhaps we might get the Fair Play recognition as a consolation cup. PD: Germany kicked us out of the world cup in 2002 by a flagrant handball at the goal-line that the referee did not see (really??). They went all the way to the final and they could have won. Would the idea of being cheaters would have taken anything away of their triumph. Let me answer that... no, I better won't.

  79. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 8:40 a.m.

    Mike, yes it does, just not to you.

  80. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 8:45 a.m.

    Kent, same punishment should be applied to U8 and above. We live in a country where parents want their kids to play on on the top U8 teams and we rank these teams accordingly. Its competitive. So therefore should be reffed accordingly. Ayso or rec? Sure, don't call anything if you want just make sure you bring Tue after game treats. Competitively? Call it like it should be with full extent of the law so they can learn the consequences at an early age which is always easier to adapt to. Stop treating kids like they are retarded if they are not. U8 1st division teams are quite good and know what they are doing. Coaches will coach accordingly. Believe me.

  81. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 8:52 a.m.

    Mike, common sense will tell you this. If you ref the game where its harder to defend against skilled players then you will improve ur defense. Consequently you will encourage skilled play and therefore will also improve. Safe to say both are desperately needed in USA more than ever. I think we have much more than our share of unskilled brutes who don't know how to mark a man or as a unit. Call me crazy.

  82. Will G, April 9, 2015 at 10 a.m.

    Amen John - cautions and red cards are a part of our game every bit as much as fouling out in basketball or warning and ejections for throwing at batters in baseball. There seems to be some kind of stigma associated with carding youth players and I am not sure why this is. Cards are merely a mechanism to reign in players that are out of control and dismiss players that commit egregious offenses. You want to see a defender forced how to defend properly? Watch how the player is forced to change when he receives a yellow in the first 20 minutes. We need to get rid of this stigma associated with cards...they are a vital part of our game and they need to be used in the correct manner.

  83. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 10:19 a.m.

    Will, reason is always money. Leagues want kids to love playing with them. Therefore they ask their refs to be cautious with cards. Coaches will fight a red card viciously to defend his paycheck. USA soccer is about Tue next paycheck from parents. Not about development.

  84. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 10:24 a.m.

    In USA we like to make up our own rules. We change them according to what we perceive is right. In no other country do you see this type of Reffing at young ages. It is treated like any other game and guess what? U8s play with the demeanor of adults. Then our USA coaches say "those Argentinian kids are very mature and soccer saavy". That soccer savvy comment is my favorite. If a FIFA official came yo any youth game he would go nuts on our Reffing in USA. Does it amaze you that the USSF hasn't even mentioned this as a real problem that certainly plagues heavily our development? That further proves what we are about. Not much when it comes to soccer

  85. Will G, April 9, 2015 at 10:39 a.m.

    Spot on. You seem to get it but are one of the few I have come across. 9 out of 10 people would tell you we are less skilled and that is the reason we don't compete. While I won't entirely write off the less skilled comment, the real reason we are behind is because our youths soccer IQ is light years behind, which means our speed of play is light years behind.

  86. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 11:02 a.m.

    Mike, the "flagrant" hand ball you cite does not support your case that the Germans cheated to win. Watching that play in slow motion still leaves it in doubt whether the ball struck the hand (which was by the defenders side), in which case there is no foul, or whether the player moved his hand to meet the ball (if he moved it at all, we're talking millimeters). As an American fan, I certainly hoped for the PK and the red card, but given it was not clearly a foul, I think the ref was right to not make the call. But it was not a case of the ref not seeing the play, nor was it a case (like that of Suarez), where the player decided to risk punishment by doing something illegal. The play was just too fast. A better case is Marodonna's "hand of God" play against the English in 1986. He clearly cheated (and the refs missed it), and they won. But his actions certainly hurt his reputation as a player (though his amazing dribbling exhibition during the same game when he beat something like 5 players and the GK to score Argentina's other goal, did support the idea that while you might not want him to marry your daughter, the guy's got skills). I do think cheating to win diminishes the glory of the victory, but I recognize that many people don't feel that way, and nothing I say or do will change their minds.

  87. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 11:21 a.m.

    I think the larger issue is as a competitive coach, are you not doing the best job you can if you don't teach your players to play illegally as much as they can get away with? I think not, for two reasons. First, the primary reason people participate in sports is not to win, but rather to have fun, get some exercise, develop some skills, enjoy the camaraderie of their teammates, etc. Winning is nice, and is a goal, but not the only reason to play. Admittedly, at the professional level, the reason players play is different, and winning is much more important. But even there, it is not everything. Professionals need to get fans to pay to watch them play, and while fans prefer if their teams win, how they play does have a large role in whether or not they come back. So a team of hacks, that cheats and claws its way to winning every game probably won't have a large base of soccer fans (though they might develop a following amongst fight fans..). I'd rather watch a team that plays with skill and loses occasionally, than a team that wins more but is NEVER entertaining ('parking the bus' every game, physically eliminating talented opponents, etc.). But again, I recognize not everyone thinks that (would you prefer the latter team?). The second reason I think coaching players to cheat is not appropriate is that it takes time away from working on better ways to play. And more importantly, if a player is constantly thinking "should I cheat now? Can I get away with it? Will it help my team?", the player is less focused on what matters. I think it is important to teach players how to deal with dirty players (for example, I tell my players that if an opponent grabs your jersey, instead of grabbing their jersey back, they knock their hand off), but I don't condone the practice. Finally, when your players play outside the rules as much as possible, most opponents will join you in that space, so the quality of the game will deteriorate (unless the ref is really good, and we know how rare that is). And I'd like to believe that my team will benefit from a game played by the rules. So I don't think teaching players not to bend the rules as much as possible is as naive as people claim.

  88. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 11:32 a.m.

    John and Will, I am not recommending that refs at young ages ignore fouls, or somehow coddle players. I'm just saying that refereeing is more art than science, and one of the most important roles the refs play is to interpret the rules, not enforce them to the letter. For example, there is a big difference in how a ref treats a clumsy player who knocks a player off the ball because he didn't realize he couldn't stop fast enough, and a sophisticated player who knocks a player off the ball to "send a message". While age is often a determinant of soccer savvy and expertise, so that generally refs need to teach younger, less savvy players rather than just punish them, there certainly are young players that need to have those cards come out. I am all in favor of using cards to let everyone know what behavior will not be tolerated, I'm just saying that the circumstances of the game matter. There are refs who like to talk to the first player who commits a yellow card infraction instead of giving them a card, because they somehow think giving out cards demonstrates that a ref has not done his job properly, which is logic I've never understood (does every player get a warning instead of a card on their first offense?? The card IS the warning!). So I agree that cards should be an important part of a referees toolkit, but circumstances dictate when they come out. So while less skilled players may be given more leeway, games at the higher level may require that cards come out faster. When a good player comes in late on a tackle, I tell them it would be insulting for me not to give them a card, since that would suggest that they didn't know they were going to commit the foul (and suggest that they were therefore not that skilled).

  89. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 11:48 a.m.

    Will, lack of skill is a consequence not predetermined. Our entire system is not structured to develop skilled players. Reffing is a big part of the problem. If a kid comes to a game exited he will try 2-3 moves he learned in practice and then wakes up to the fact that defenders are allowed to grab his shirt, foul him from behind with no consequence then don't you think he gets discouraged to further develop his skill and learn more moves? Most parents/coaches will ask he adjust to physicality and start to pass more or/and buff up to hit back. That's a product of. This goes along with the fact that no clubs in USA, including Ussda (our youth elite), are compensated in any way for developing top players. They are ranked according to their win/loss record and how far they got in the end of the year showcase. If teams were compensated for developing top level players then you would see many more players playing up 1-3 years. This is what you hardly see currently in Ussda. Everybody talks about who is winning the most or is unbeaten and coincidentally they have the oldest rosters of most. This is glorified. Is it really hard to put the oldest and therefore strongest fastest players together and beat the younger ones?

  90. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 12:07 p.m.

    Kent, mist refs don't have on common sense so we must not assume they will call a game accordingly. Most refs I see follow instructions from their assignors or leagues in their simplest forms. If you or me were Reffing I am sure we would make it a well played game to the players capabilities without being too harsh but my experience tells me it is wrong to count on most refs to display this logic just like it is wrong to depend on most coaches to do the right thing. If a clumsy player accidentally takes out a proven skilled player as last man the first time at U8 I would red card him for a few reasons. being that we have an alarming shortage of skilled players I would worry more about letting that skilled player know the refs want for him to continue his path and what he is doing is right and should be protected. At the same time I want the clumsy player to know that he must start to learn to defend and control his body and that skull will trump accidental clumsiness every time so he can either adjust or play football where clumsiness isn't punished as hard. Clumsiness is also subject to opinions and anither reason why it must be dealt the same way. You can not be the good guy to both players. You either reward the skilled player or you make the clumsy one feel good about it himself. You can't do both. The problem is we have more clumsy players than skilled ones so of course refs will be extremely unpopular punishing the majority. He is not there to be the good guy. He is there to ref a game according to the laws and if he does that to the full extent our skilled ones will develop as they should. Again, in no other country do we see this sensitivity when it cones to Reffing a U8 game. We are way behind these countries. Maybe they are on to something?

  91. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 5:42 p.m.

    Most U8 games don't need refs, much less red cards, so maybe the point is moot. But your mistaking the reason cards vary with circumstances; it is not a desire to spare a kid's feelings (though if it does, that's fine), nor is it a desire to be liked by the players. Refs set boundaries for behavior, so a failure to do so is a failure on the part of referees. But the point of a card is to change behavior, not just punish players. If a player's behavior was unintentional in the first place, carding them for it won't prevent them from doing it in the future. On the other hand, if a player's behavior is intentional, failure to card them for will almost guarantee they do it again. But I do agree with your major point; how players play the game can be set early in their careers, and it is important that their behavior is monitored so that they are encouraged to play fairly. My only point is that how the rules are interpreted depends on circumstances, so "one size fits all" is not as appropriate as tailoring your refereeing to the situation.

  92. Scott Johnson, April 9, 2015 at 6:06 p.m.

    Generally, unless a younger kid (below 10 or so) is engaging in deliberate attempts to injure someone, or blatant unsportsmanlike behavior, or that sort of thing--cards are probably not necessary. In many youth games, infractions such as throw-in violations are dealt with by the referee explaining the rule to the player and than allowing replay. Above U10, and certainly when reaching middle school, players should be expected to know the rules.

  93. John Bishop, April 9, 2015 at 6:32 p.m.

    Kent agreed on u8 not needing refs but if they are there it is because he is officiating a competitive game or babysitting. I don't know how the level is by you but by us U8 top 1-2 divisions are pretty good and know what they are doing for the most part. Few foul on purpose but I have seen several reckless accidental last man challenges that result in fouls but no cards. most of those games have had more than 2 fouls committed by same player that go unpunished. And most of those are committed by what seems to be that teams best defender usually center defender in a 7v7 game. You get my point?? Coaches make no effort in teaching those kids to mark correctly or to understand that it is strictly punishable foul. Instead they applaud the "effort". Again what seems harsh to you guys at U8 could seem as harsh to another at U10 and so forth. What I end up seeing us a lot of the same treatment at U14 U12 with really good players. I tell the refs that I don't mind a red card if my players deserve it and get a crazy look from them and opposing teams. All of this is subject to opinion and different points of view. I think that is a huge mistake to let refs dictate what and will not call. If you have a talented and skilled U8 team you are in for a bad season if you have this Reffing vs mostly accidentally brutal athletic teams. Not worth stunting their development to be compassionate with Tue brutes who more times than not are badly coached. Not a refs job to coach or to teach. He is there to ref.

  94. Kent James, April 9, 2015 at 11:18 p.m.

    While you will not get your best refs at U8, I would argue that a problem greater than poor officiating at that age group is a competitive structure that pretends there is significance in who wins a U8 game.

  95. Mike Jacome, April 10, 2015 at 12:45 a.m.

    Kent James '' I do think cheating to win diminishes the glory of the victory, but I recognize that many people don't feel that way' ..You got it wrong, Is not that some people don't think that cheating diminishes the Glory, (of course it does)The point is that many people (including me) do not think that committing a last resource infraction and sacrificing yourself for the team is cheating. Which is largely controversial, many do think so, while I respect their opinion I just cannot understand it. I'll give you some examples of cheating. 1) The "hand of God" was cheating while The Hand of Suarez is not, why? Because Suarez used it as a last resource to save his team from a catastrophe, instant elimination, and was openly committed knowing that he will be ejected but by doing so he bought his team a second chance to survive through a PK. Maradona's intent was to deceive the referee, that was not a last resource, or done on desperation, it had clear intent not to prevent imminent elimination but to generate a dishonest advantage. 2) During the round of 16 match between Argentina and Brazil in WC 1990 was rumored and later corroborated by Bilardo and the Argentinean trainer that there was a ''special'' water bottle that the Argentines pretended to drink but did not and had the intention to share with Brazilian players. The drink was diluted with some sort of narcotic. 3) During Copa Libertadores early years was common for the home teams to spray the visitor's dressing room with itching powder. Or surround the hotel with loudspeakers to not let them sleep the night before. 4) Carlos Salvador Bilardo was a rough defender who instead of support breaking rules (like Balboa or Lalas) he was instead known for hiding a safety pin on himself and pricking the attackers with it. 5) Spitting or otherwise provoking an adversary on the field to trigger the other player to lose his temper and punch or reciprocate, and therefore get awarded a red card, was common behavior of many defenders not long ago, and maybe still around. That is not only disgusting but dishonest. Any of those behaviors can't remotely be compared at any defender committing a calculated infraction. So to round it up. Infraction are there as TOOLS to achieve a goal, you don't want to use them, but depending the circumstances you might not have a choice. And finally, as a coach, a fan, or generally speaking in life I don;t want to have a player in my roster who is not willing to go above and beyond to achieve the goal. I want to have under my command players who will not accept defeat. If my last defender is at the goal line the clock marks injury time and we are 30 seconds away of reaching the final or the torunament, he better gives his 101% and if he needs to jump to the very corner of the goal to make a save keeper-style, so be it. The rules and the referee are there to protect and give justice to the opposite team, it's not our duty to protect their interest, we protect ours. THE END

  96. Scott Johnson, April 10, 2015 at 12:46 a.m.

    Depends on the skill level of the players. A classic U8 game may well be called tighter than a rec U10... that said, I tend to agree with Kent that worrying about results at that age--particularly at greater than a local level--might not be the best idea.

  97. Scott Johnson, April 10, 2015 at 12:49 a.m.

    I'd say that Suarez' handball is cheating, but a DSGO foul (even if a red card is issued) is not. Again--what is the length of the suspension? Things that constitute "cheating" result in lengthy bans, not one-game vacations.

  98. John Bishop, April 10, 2015 at 7:57 a.m.

    Kent, also strongly agree with you, structure is a greater problem in youth soccer but again as it stands now, refs only job and only way to help with current situation is to ref u8 and up the same with full extent of the law. If red cards become to harsh in the eyes of the league or coaches it is their job to change structure. Not a refs.

  99. John Bishop, April 10, 2015 at 8:44 a.m.

    Mike, how can you possibly argue that one hand ball is cheating and the other isn't? Both were done to win. Both were done knowing punishment of. Maradonas could have been penalized by FIFA with several game suspension. Both were done "to avoid catastrophe". Both resulted in their teams advancing. Both were done to gain an unfair advantage. A handball to stop a clear goal is an unfair advantage. Maradonas hand goal helped Hus team not get eliminated. Goals scored and goals avoided help teams advance just the same. Your argument makes no sense. If an apposing player sets a bomb before the game in a teams locker room then the safety pin and spitting is not a big deal then. Just because some things are much worse doesn't make it right. Of course you want a player that will do anything for the team. What you don't want are teams full of unskilled players who's only resort to stay competitive is to constantly hit skilled players. And you are right it is the refs job to control game. Therefore, I ask those refs to rapidly and swiftly get rid of those dirty players as early as possible in the games and seasons so we can actually have watchable games. Give Suarez and Maradina hand balls 10-20 game suspensions to secure those rarely or never happen. Most fans and players want to see skill over brute. Why? Because skill is much harder to achieve. Because skill and grace give the game beauty. There is a reason Jordan was the best ever in basketball and mist hated the pistons. They resorted to hurt Jordan systematically as a team. Sure, they did knowing they would be penalized but it made for some ugly games. Thank god refs protected Jordan from those thugs. Let's see this more in soccer.

  100. Will G, April 10, 2015 at 8:47 a.m.

    Kent - I honestly can't disagree with much that you say and the whole structure conversation should be held for a different day. The only thing that I believe is lost in your thought is that a foul has to be intentional to be card worthy. The intentional, dangerous fouls are typically very obvious and they need to be dealt with accordingly. However, I see the needs for cards even more on the unintentional fouls and I think these happen way more often. Carding a kid for something that was unintentional absolutely will have an effect on the kid. He will have to learn to time tackles better, slow down earlier, stay under control, etc. If referees can clean up and reduce the unintentional fouls are game becomes much better to watch and our talented kids have more time and space to play. I think this even goes into the very top levels, very few (although there are some) red cards are intentional. Most are ill timed or out of control, but not intentional.

  101. John Bishop, April 10, 2015 at 8:56 a.m.

    Mike, biting someone isn't cheating either, right? Suarez knew he would get red carded but he did it to get into defenders head so that's heroic and OK, right? If that's the case, what's to stop many more teams doing nothing but handballs at end of games and biting people? Would be excellent strategy to advance in world cups. Would be heroic. You don't see what's wrong with your argument, yet? Cheating us trying to get an unfair advantage without getting caught going afainst rules of game. Red yellow cards pks are issued as penalty. When trying to get away with as much as you can if refs suck or too lenient that is cheating. We have a big problem of that in USA. We have refs that don't know what they are doing and we have unskilled but strong athletic teams taking advantage of it. That makes for garbage soccer and zero development. I can't believe that some here argue in garbage soccer favor.

  102. Kent James, April 10, 2015 at 2:16 p.m.

    Mike, I generally agree with your distinction between breaking the rules and cheating, with the emphasis of the latter is in trying to avoid punishment ('getting away with it'). While I don't condone Suarez's handball (and it was unfortunate that it paid off), it was not as dishonorable as Marodonna's 'hand of God' (or Suarez's biting episodes, which may be a sign of more serious issues!). My question to you as a coach, would you be upset if a player refused to break the rules (stopping a goal by handling, e.g.) in order to go '101%' for the win? I would hope that if a player gave 100%, but always played by the rule, you'd be okay with that.

  103. Kent James, April 10, 2015 at 2:21 p.m.

    Will, you are right that cards should be issued for some fouls, even when they are not intentional. Those are cases where the player should have known they were likely to commit a foul (excessive force, desperate tackles). Sometimes such a card needs to be used for educational purposes. I just think such cards are more likely to come when the players are playing at a higher level. But I do think it is better to give a few too many cautions than too few, since if you give out an 'unearned' yellow card, it's really not a big deal, unless the player earns a second one. And players who earn a second card (knowing they're carrying a card already) probably deserve to be ejected.

  104. Mike Jacome, April 10, 2015 at 8:30 p.m.

    Kent James, Suarez biting episodes ARE cheating. That to me is not a nervous tic or any psychological issue. He is trying to make the defenders react with and elbow and while the biting can go unnoticed the reaction will not and the referee will redcard the reactive player. That is a great example of cheating. Similar to spitting or sticking a rival with a needle.

  105. Mike Jacome, April 10, 2015 at 8:35 p.m.

    Marcelo Balboa today during Dallas - Colorado commenting on a foul. "Well deserved yellow card. He had no option, if he hadn't done it a full-steam counter attack would have unfolded. Great TACTICAL foul!. I will never use again the word "professional" to describe a foul because I'm gonna be stoned to death by Mr. Paul Gardner" LOL

  106. Mike Jacome, April 10, 2015 at 9:07 p.m.

    John Bishop, "biting someone isn't cheating either, right? " Oh boy...with due respect, you are either CLUELESS, or just anti-Suarez. Can't you really see the difference between a last resource honest foul and a vicious, sneaky and disgusting aggression? If I bite, prick with a needle or spit some one on the streets I'll be in jail (well spitting only if I do it to law enforcement) Handling a ball with the hand is only an infraction (a not permitted activity, if you do it in basketball is okay, but there are things not allowed in basketball that if you do, the play will stop and you get penalized). Like I posted before my examples of cheating ''5) Spitting or otherwise provoking an adversary on the field to trigger the other player to lose his temper and punch or reciprocate, and therefore get awarded a red card'' Biting falls clearly under that category. Hey listen I am not a Suarez fan or anything, I think the guy is a cheat for some things he does (biting, flopping, etc... but particularly biting) I'm only saying that the 120th minute handball was not cheating, it was a resource and an infraction. Any American soccer defender who would do that in a WC final and thanks to that we go through, doesn't deserve to be ostracize, deserve to be commended. And that infraction would not be cheating, is our duty to educate our youth correctly to make them understand, that is a tactical infraction, and not cheating. No, I'm not commending cheating as a way to achieve a higher goal, we are commending a player who uses every tool he had to accomplish his duty. If you will not celebrate a US victory because to you that would be cheating, perfect, that is you, not me (I'll be in the streets celebrating, you will be at home and would probably won't got out from it without a paper-bag on your head which I'd found idiotic), to me that is fair play, the kid did not hide anything or pretended to deceive anyone, he got the red car, the rival got the PK and our keeper saved the goal, and we went through. FAIR PLAY. Biting, provoking, spitting, and a plethora of other DISHONEST action, yes that is cheating. By the way we got out of the world cup in 2002 for a German handling the ball on the goal line. I was mad as hell, but not to the player. To the referee. The player did what he needed to do. And YES it was intentional, don't fool yourself. The referee was clueless because he didn't see the handball, nor the ball actually crossing the goal line.

  107. Mike Jacome, April 10, 2015 at 9:17 p.m.

    Kent James. "My question to you as a coach, would you be upset if a player refused to break the rules (stopping a goal by handling, e.g.) in order to go '101%' for the win? I would hope that if a player gave 100%, but always played by the rule, you'd be okay with that." Even those who criticize Suarez for the handball thinking erroneously that it is cheating agree that TACTICAl fouls are only that and not cheating, They are playing by the rules, they broke the rules, to prevent a counterattack and got their punishment period, where is the cheating? So that being said if a player would refuse to do a TACTICAL foul, (stopping a player on propose or make a last resource handball on purpose) All of them TACTICAL fouls, has no place in my team, and NEWS FLASH has no place in competitive international football, no coach or European team will consider him. NAIVETY is NOT an inherent attribute of a defender or a football player.

  108. Kent James, April 11, 2015 at 5:05 p.m.

    Mike, I certainly agree Suarez's biting is cheating (and of the worst kind); I was kind of joking about the psychological reasons for Suarez's habit (since he's been caught 3x); maybe he chooses to do so to provoke a defender (but I don't think any of the defenders ever reacted with an ejectionable action, so if that's his strategy, it's clearly not working), but I'd guess it's a lack of control/too much emotion on his part. But no matter, it's clearly cheating. But the German "handling" in 2002 was not cheating (and was rightly not called). I thought the US outplayed Germany in that game, and deserved to go forward, and as diehard US fan, I would have dearly loved to see a PK and a red card (and certainly, some refs might give that), but according to the spirit of the game, it should not have been a foul. Torsten Frings was on the post with his hands by his side, the point blank (around the 6 yd line) shot came under Kahn (and might have even deflected off his chest or arms), and strikes Frings' arm (as he's actually trying to move his hand back out of the way). Players have arms, they have to go somewhere. If a ball strikes a player's arm while it's at his side (or in any other normal position), it should not be a foul. Fouls should discourage inappropriate play (such as using your hands/arms), not punish people for having arms. This was clearly different than Suarez handling, which was a decision (though that too, may have been instinctual) to break the rules to stop a goal. I wouldn't classify it as dishonorable (since he knew he was going to get caught), but rather (as you describe it) a tactical foul. Here's a link that shows the 2002 non-call.

  109. Kent James, April 11, 2015 at 5:16 p.m.

    I have to respectfully disagree that all international players commit tactical fouls as a regular part of their game, and failure to be willing to do so is naive. Some do (mostly central defenders), but I don't think it's a no-brainer that committing a tactical fouls is the best way to win games. If the rules are written and enforced properly (obviously not always the case, but at the higher levels, mostly true), choosing to break them should lead to a worse outcome than playing by them. And I think this is generally true; there may be an occasional case (stopping a break-away near midfield in the last few minutes of a final, e.g.) when such a decision may be smart, but I'd argue that in most cases, it's not. Fouling tactically when you're not the last man means you're not trusting the supporting defender to stop win a 1 v 1 battle (or to even slow down the attacker enough to allow you time to re-engage); when you're the last man, you'll play short the rest of the game (which may be wise if there's not much time, but assuming you're a good player, your team will also miss you on the next game, which should be some kind of punishment). So I don't think there are a lot of times when committing a tactical foul is the smart thing to do.

  110. Kent James, April 11, 2015 at 5:51 p.m.

    Some people also argue it is naive NOT to play as dirty as the ref will let you get away with (clipping ankles, holding jersey's, grabbing genitals to provoke a reaction...), because "other teams do it". And again, while superficially that may seem smart (why not bend the rules as much as possible?), not only is it not in the spirit of the game, I don't think it is smart in either the short, or the long run. First of all, if refs call the game properly (okay, here I'll concede that refs generally are much too lenient on this stuff) you won't get away with it (and will soon be playing short players, or conceding free kicks). And I will concede that if your team is much weaker than your opponent, turning the game into a slugfest may be to your advantage, but that goes back to the purpose of playing in the first place; if you want a slugfest, why not engage in mixed martial arts or cage fighting? Yes, I'm obviously exaggerating, but the more teams engage in bending the rules, the less like soccer the game becomes. That may be important at the professional level, but there the referees are better at keeping a lid on it (so I don't think its smart even there, though I do think that on things like corner kicks it sometimes does give a competitive advantage). And at the lower levels, winning at all costs diminishes the joy of playing the game. And I do think that engaging in that kind of behavior hurts your own team's ability to play, since at the very least, it is one more thing to think about (how can a bend the rules in this case to get an advantage?), which distracts from more important things to think about (how can I get open for a pass? who on is open? etc.). I've played at a reasonably high level (college, semi-pro, adult amateur) for many years, mostly played defense aggressively but cleanly, and never felt I would be a more effective player by bending the rules. And when opponents do it, it inspires me to play even harder, so I don't think it works for them either. And I do get much more satisfaction out of beating dirty teams, though I enjoy the game more against clean ones.

  111. Brian McLindsay, April 15, 2015 at 11:29 a.m.

    Fouling is not cheating. If it were, almost every card would be red for cheating. The games rules have changed and evolved over a very long time and are fairly well balanced if applied consistently. If you want less physical contact then is currently allowed, petition FIFA, after all the rule makers did outlaw hacking which was once a common tactic for men who played the beautiful game.

    I think an on going debate about what should and shouldn't be allowed in the game is good, but few will agree with every suggestion, which is good as it would become a chess match with no contact on a grass field if everyone's sense of too-much were addressed.

    There are a few dangerous playing tactics which the game managers should not tolerate and should warrant a PK regardless of were they occur on the field, however pulling an attacker down with a grab should not be one of those things to be concerned with, the rules already address the defensive decision equitably if not consistently.

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