"That's a smart tactical foul in the moment," Fox Sports color commentator Stuart Holden said after LAFC's José Cifuentes kicked Lucas Romero from behind and swung his right arm at neck level as he plowed over the Leon midfielder.
Romero had received the ball 20 yards inside his own half, but Holden proclaimed, "That's not a bad yellow to take."
Holden was praising a cheap shot, an incident he himself described as: "The ball is gone. He knows the ball is gone and he's trying to take him out."
The condoning of foul play comes frequently from soccer broadcasters, who embrace euphemisms such as professional foul ... emergency brake ... tactical foul. Also prevalent is ignorance of the rules.
Earlier in the Leon-LAFC game, Denil Maldonado competed for a high ball while on José Alvarado's back. Maldonado first pushed his hand down on Alvarado's shoulder, then wrapped his arm around Alvarado's head.
After referee Walter Lopez yellow-carded Maldonado, Holden cited "make-up" call, an "evening out" of the yellow card Lopez gave to Adonis Frias for a foul on Carlos Vela two minutes earlier.
Of Maldonado's caution, Holden, while watching the replay, said, with a chuckle in the middle, "Maybe there's a bit of contact, what they're trying to say, on the side of his face, but I think that was the first foul I can remember in the game for Maldonado."
Maldonado's foul met the rulebook's criteria for a yellow card without it having to be considered "persistent offense." And for the record, Maldonado committed the game's first foul, at the 4-minute mark, and fouled again in the 21st minute.
After Frias got yellow-carded for whacking Vela hard from behind, Holden described Frias' action as "just a little over-eager there."
I've surveyed enough youth players and witnessed enough youth coaching to know they don't learn the rules by reading the rulebook. They're most likely to get their information from what they see and hear on TV.
That means referees must cope with coaches and players who are frequently misinformed and influenced by the condoning of foul play.
What TV soccer commentators should do:
1. Read the rulebook. (It's free to download, HERE.)
2. Wait until you see the replay before criticizing the ref or opining on whether it was or wasn't a foul.
3. If you do jump the gun and the replay refutes your knee-jerk speculation, just admit you got it wrong instead of embarrassing yourself more by contradicting the upclose, slow-motion, high-definition replay we're seeing with our own eyes.
4. After a ref's call, share what the rule is with your audience by reading or accurately paraphrasing the section of rulebook that relates to the incident. It should be a big part of your job to ensure your viewers are accurately informed.
5. Referee some soccer games. Then decide if you're still comfortable praising foul play.
BBC commentator Chris Sutton, whose playing career included Celtic and Chelsea, has been notorious for his criticism of officiating while TV pundit for BT Sport. Earlier this year, he reffed his first game:
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