A brutal experience for Mexico's Chucky Lozano

Brutality? In soccer? Not very often, I would think. I don’t ever remember using the word myself, and am pretty sure I haven’t ever heard it from soccer people.

Thuggishness, yes, I’ve heard that plenty of times, along with players being described as thugs. But rarely as brutes.

Yet the word “brutality” is in the rule book. It is even defined as a “football term,” thus: An act which is savage, ruthless or deliberately violent. Which isn’t a specifically soccer definition, is it? My regular dictionary uses virtually the same definition: “a savage act.”

But brutality, having hovered at the edge of the rules since 2002 (when it first appeared in the “additional instructions” section) finally made it into the rules proper in 2016. Currently, it pops up twice in Rule 12, featuring in the definitions of Serious Foul Play, and of Violent Conduct, both of which demand a red card for the use of “excessive force or brutality.”

So there you are. A key word identifying two of the most serious of soccer fouls, yet a word that hardly ever gets used. Have you ever heard of a player being red-carded for brutality? I’m pretty sure that, in what must be thousands of chats, interviews etc., that I’ve had with referees, not one has used the word (though I can recall plenty of incidents which could have been so described).

There’s something rather admirable about that. Evidently, soccer people feel strongly that brutality does not happen in their game, so the word is just not mentioned -- “excessive force” is deemed more fitting.

And just why have I been so assiduously pondering this question of soccer brutality? It lodged in my mind a week or so back, during the Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago Gold Cup game -- the one in which Mexico’s star forward Chucky Lozano was badly injured.

His injury came about in a rather unusual way. Lozano was on a breakaway, chasing a ground ball into the T&T penalty area. Two T&T defenders were chasing him, No. 16 Alvin Jones at his left heel, No. 2 Aubrey David at his right heel. Lozano was leading them slightly, certainly the favorite to catch up with the ball first.

Then this full-speed chase sort of exploded. Lozano was suddenly and -- as it seemed -- violently propelled forward, so that he was now diving head first into the ground. As he hit the grass, head first, the T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillip entered the picture, on the ground, sliding feet first toward Lozano, who was now sliding head first into an ugly collision.

Ugly indeed. Lozano was treated on the field for some 7 minutes, then stretchered off, straight to the hospital with nasty head injuries.

My version of the clash was that Alvin Jones had given Lozano a shove from behind that had sent him sprawling. That was also the opinion of the Spanish TV commentators, who saw an empujo clarissimo. Things seemed crystal clear. A red card for Jones, a penalty kick for Mexico, and the hospital for Lozano.

I quickly decided that goalkeeper Phillip was in no way to blame, he was merely sliding in -- not violently -- to sweep the ball away. He never got to the ball because Lozano had landed on top of it before sliding into Phillip’s knee.

Jones was the villain. It was his push from behind that sent Lozano flying toward the collision. That was when I started to locate the incident in the rare ‘brutality’ category.

But there was a problem. As you would expect, this being soccer. The Mexican players were haranguing the referee, Costa Rica’s Ricardo Montero. Because, incredibly, Montero was taking no action. No red card, no penalty -- not even a foul. Montero did manage to hand out a yellow card, though -- to Mexico’s Edson Alvarez for protesting.

Not calling the foul seemed to me a colossal referee error. As such huge mistakes are very uncommon, I ran the hell out of the replays to see if Montero had a case. Well, I’ve noticed many times in the past that a Law of Diminishing Returns operates with watching replays. The more I watch, the less certain I become.

Did Jones really shove Lozano? Possibly, though it began to look more like a hefty shoulder contact. But if Jones was not guilty of a shove, there was a new charge. Tripping. Immediately before Lozano’s plunge, it is clear -- from the replays -- that Jones has his right leg across Lozano’s path. There can be no doubt about that. Mexican socks are white, T&T socks are red.

Referee Montero must have seen Lozano’s headlong sprawl, yet he ignored it. The situation was a tangled, high-speed mess -- possibly offering an excuse for Montero’s inaction, but doubly implicating Jones with a trip and either a push or nudge. But, please, were the VAR guys asleep?

The result is that Lozano will miss the rest of the Gold Cup with serious neck and facial injuries. Brutality? For once, I’d say that is the right word. After all, neither Jones’ nudge nor his trip can be considered accidental. But how can anyone be satisfied when victim Lozano needs facial surgery and is out of action for months, yet perpetrator Alvin Jones walks away unpunished?

7 comments about "A brutal experience for Mexico's Chucky Lozano".
  1. Ben Myers, July 26, 2021 at 4:13 p.m.

    VAR at the Olympics?  Is VAR a presence there?

  2. Doug Broadie, July 26, 2021 at 4:13 p.m.

    Var seems to be absent from everything in soccer except for offsides and handballs.  I saw one takedown in the box that would have been a 3 point takedown in wresling in one gold cup game.

  3. Ric Fonseca, July 26, 2021 at 4:33 p.m.

    Re this article's principal theme, "brutality in soccer," it seems to me that the more soccer I've seen these past months, the more "brutal play" I've noted.  Granted, a referee cannot "see" every fouls, brutal or not, yet, when the replays tells the viewer otherwise, then the principal thug here is the mere and brutal fact that referees are just calling it, this notwithstanding VAR.  Players inheritently know how to commit fouls, of defensive kind, e.g. holding a player at midfield who may be on a score threatening run, or tripping him/her (this reminds me of a scene from a women's match during which I vividly remember seeing a defender grabbing an attacking opponents ponytail and dragged her to the ground, but I don't remember if she was red carded or even a yellow...)  And, granted some players know how to "work" an official, witness the amount of yawing/complaining/or just plain "b******g" that goes on when players get face-to-face to argue a call, just like it happens in baseball (curiously not so much in the NBA) while in some other sports, when a committed foul is called, the opposing or offending player walks away.  In our sport, nope, a lot of yakiti-yaking appears to be the norm.  This topic is enough for a 250 word book, and I am sure our Senor Pablo el Jardinero could put pen to paper (or is is, fingers to keyboard) and regale us with such a book.  Seriously though, Lozano's injury was very difficult to watch, and that the ref "didn't see anything," other that he saw fit to card a dissenting player.... wowo, yes Mr. PG, brutality does fit this "sporting crime..."   

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, July 27, 2021 at 5:17 p.m.

    Oooops, I meant to say a "250 page BOOK....) not a 250 word essay.  PLAY ON anyonbe?

  5. beautiful game, July 26, 2021 at 4:51 p.m.

    Replay shows a shove followed by contact to Lozanos leg in the box and like a whistle swallower in the middle, VAR again fails the lithmus test.

  6. Wallace Wade, July 26, 2021 at 6:02 p.m.

    Shouldn't have taken VAR to identify an infraction. This referee is incompetent and not "of the level". Very simple. 

  7. Kent James, July 27, 2021 at 10:29 a.m.

    First, the ref clearly missed this one, but his miss is understandable, because the initial foul was not even hard, much less brutal (a slight shove with the shoulder, from slightly behind but only slightly). But that goes to show you a foul need not be violent or obvious to have a big impact; in this case, knocking Lozano off-balance, sending him sprawling forward.  Clear penalty kick.  I can't believe VAR did not call that.

    But that's only one half of the play.  Without the keeper there, that minor shove causes no injury. The other half is the action of the goalkeeper.  He seems to be sliding with both feet forward, studs towards the ball (and Lozano).  I'm not sure what he's doing (that's a very odd way for a goalkeeper to go for the ball; one would expect him to either dive forward to grab the ball or slide with his body across the path of the ball and the attacker).  His actions probably warranted a red card and might warrant the brutality label.  

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