At the moment, confusion reigns over the fate of Neymar at the 2015 Copa America after the Brazil captain received a straight red card for attempting to head-butt Colombia defender Jeison Murillo after referee Enrique Osses had blown the final whistle in Colombia’s combative 1-0 win in Santiago
On Thursday, reports in the Brazilian media claimed that Neymar was looking at a minimum two-game suspension, thus ruling the Barcelona forward out until the semifinal, assuming Brazil gets that far. The Copa America disciplinary board later confirmed the Brazilian media reports, only to see Conmebol, the South American region’s confederation, step in less than an hour later to reduce the 23-year-old’s ban to one game. In doing so, Conmebol said that its disciplinary board would meet again on Friday to “decide the final punishment.”
According to Caio Rocha, a member of Conmebol’s disciplinary committee, this is what’s happening: "In theory, Neymar could be suspended just one game,” the Brazilian told Folha de Sao Paolo (via ESPN) on Thursday. “The rule doesn't make clear if the yellow received yesterday, his second of the tournament, is maintained. If the tribunal interprets the that the yellow is voided/annulled by the red, the automatic suspension falls and Neymar could be punished with just a one-game suspension."
Is Off The Post the only one who’s baffled by Conmebol’s handling of this?
Let’s start with the cold, hard facts: Neymar, who everyone knows is an extraordinarily talented soccer player and by far the Seleccao’s biggest star, has now received two yellow cards and a straight red in two games at the Copa.
His first, a yellow against Peru in a 2-1 win, was for misconduct: wiping away the referee’s disappearing foam. His second yellow, received in the first half of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Colombia, was for a deliberate handball, although replays seem to indicate that this was a harsh call. However, a few minutes later, the Barca star was lucky to escape a second yellow for what could have easily been deemed a deliberate foul on Carlos Sanchez, who by the way did an excellent job marking Neymar all night. If that wasn’t enough, Brazil’s captain definitely should have been booked for his reaction to that call, as he angrily spiked the ball on the ground and away from the spot where the foul occurred in protest to Osses’ decision.
After that, Barca star was walking on very thin ice. In fact, OTP was surprised that he made it as far as the final whistle. However, his dismissal for the attempted head-butt on Murillo in the melee that ensued was an indisputable straight red card.
So, to sum up: we have one warranted yellow card, one unwarranted yellow card, one missed yellow card (Osses might have been trying to make up for the prior call), and one straight red in two games for one of the world’s biggest stars.
If OTP were Brazil coach Dunga, he’d be thinking: this is how my captain behaves?
In any event, forgetting for a second about the two yellows and whether or not they were warranted, a straight red for attempting to head-butt another player is violent conduct, plain and simple. Now, the handling of how long a player is suspended for after a straight red is actually regulated by association and league authorities, or in this case, the Copa America disciplinary committee. However, since Conmebol has (temporarily, anyway) superseded the Copa committee’s ruling, FIFA, if did not have reason enough to throw the book at Conmebol for its role in all the kickback scandals, should sanction the South American body for the manner in which it has stepped in and undermined the authority of its discipllnary committee.
If Neymar does indeed get away with a one-game ban, FIFA absolutely has to step in here.
In many leagues across Europe, including the English Premier League, violent conduct constitutes an automatic three-game ban. Granted, we’re talking about a three-week long tournament here, so two games would seem sufficient for a straight red card. However, given Neymar’s other yellows and overall poor behavior on the field -- not to mention his comments about the referee off the field -- OTP would like to see the Brazilian given an additional game ban to show that such misconduct will not be tolerated and that no player is bigger than the laws of the game.
That’s probably not going to happen, but there is plenty of precedence for FIFA handing out two-game bans for violent conduct at other tournaments— Zinedine Zidane’s stomp against Saudi Arabia at France 1998 comes to mind. For the sake of consistency, and of keeping the game’s stars from becoming more important than its rules of conduct, FIFA has to intervene here.