Hubert Lawrence | Think before you act
Montego Bay United goalkeeper Jacomeno Barrett is right. His team could suffer if the proposed four-game ban, a punishment for Barrett head -butting an opponent in a Red Stripe Premier League match, is upheld. He knows that his actions could weaken the Montego Bay United defence in a compact 12-team league where it's easy to lose ground.
Given that he is not a habitual troublemaker on the field of play, Barrett might reasonably hope for a softer punishment. Unfortunately, the authorities may find it hard to balance that with rulings in similar cases and the need to send a clear message to anyone who might contemplate such an offence. If you classify his behaviour as violent conduct and unsportsmanlike, his chance of clemency gets slimmer and slimmer.
The politics of the day made Diego Maradona a hero for many when he scored against England in the 1986 World Cup with his blatant volleyball style goal. Barrett's action probably won't be viewed in quite the same way. French captain Zinedine Zidane was rightly sent off 20 years later for a head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final. In a daCosta Cup semi-final game earlier this week, a St Elizabeth Technical High (STETHS) player was sent off for throwing an elbow with dangerous intent.
The youngster didn't go to the team bench right away. It seemed that he realised immediately, he had let his teammates and his school down by acting rashly and, therefore, he stayed away as long as he could.
Oddly, the experience may make him a better man when he grows up.
Had Barrett been sent off, his plea for mercy combined with his apology might be enough. In such a case, he and his club could reasonably argue that he and the team had already suffered enough and the message of non-violence had been well and truly received. As things stand, the rule makers may feel compelled to hammer the message home.
There is, however, no formula in football's book of rules that spells out the severity of the punishment for what Barrett did. Bad fouls sometimes go unpunished. Conversely, minimal infractions can go red. Maybe a formula is needed for consistency.
Luis Suarez, that magical Uruguayan striker, cost Liverpool FC the 2014-2015 English Premier League when he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in a game near the end of the previous season. It cost Liverpool 10 games without his services and left the Anfield club second when the dust settled.
When Suarez did the same thing in a 2014 World Cup game against Italy, he was hit with an extensive worldwide ban from the sport. In this case, the governing body of the sport wanted to make it clear to Su·rez and everyone else that his behaviour wouldn't be tolerated.
This is where Barrett finds himself. Though he is penitent and is not a repeat offender, his behaviour was unacceptable. Given that he wasn't sent off, few would now recommend a lighter punishment.
We all make mistakes, so there's a lesson in this for all of us. Even in the heat of the moment, think before you act.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes from track side since 1980.