Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY
Football is widely known as the beautiful game. Indeed many believe it is the most beautiful game in the whole wide world.
Whenever you see a player, well balanced, moving down the field, dribbling past a defender, or two, or three, slipping an accurate pass to a colleague, and then running into space to collect the return pass, you realise that it is highly likely to be so.
And when you see a player, from long range, driving and connecting the ball sweetly and the goalkeeper flying through the air in a vain attempt to stop the ball, or when you see a player flip the ball over his head and race onto it to shoot for a goal, you understand why the fans react so wildly.
It is even better still whenever you see a player, a Diego Maradona, for example, as he did in the World Cup of 1986 against England, race past one, two, three, four, or five defenders, ease past the goalkeeper, and hand his team a lovely goal.
Yes, football is beautiful, especially when it is played at its best, and by the best, and before a sea of spectators.
There is something wrong with the game which the Americans call soccer, however, and it is the willingness by the game, by the referees, to punish a player twice in one match for the same action.
To me, that seems unreasonable, and unjust, and now is as good a time as any to talk about a few things which, in my opinion, affect the beautiful game.
In one instance, a player, an outfielder, the last man defending his goal, fouls another player, that player is sent off, and a penalty is awarded, and another, the goalkeeper comes out to stop a player running on his goal, he fouls the player, or appears to foul the player, he is sent off, and a penalty is awarded.
The offending player has been sent off for the match, a penalty, almost a certain goal, has been awarded.
offending team short
That action by the referee, however, has left the offending team short one player, and that action, more or less, has given the other team a goal, probably the only goal of the match.
To me, that is not fair, and something should be done about it.
Another thing which bothers me almost every time I watch the beautiful game, especially every time a player is sent off, is that a football match is a contest between two teams of 11 players each, even though a team is allowed three changes during the game.
There are rules which govern a match, and players are asked to confine their play to these rules otherwise they play the price.
These rules call for a player to be blown for a foul whenever he commits a minor offence against an opposing player, to be shown a yellow card for a bigger foul or whenever he commits an offence deserving one, and to be shown a red card and sent off the field for the remainder of the match for a vicious foul or for an offence deserving of such action.
Referees, some of them, tend to be lenient with the cards, particularly with the red card, for they know that a red card with 10 or so minutes to go in the match may not be so bad, but a red card 10 minutes or so into the match may destroy the chances of the affected, as it did last season with the sending off of Nani for Manchester United against Real Madrid in the European Club Championships.
Nani deserved to be shown the red card. He lifted his foot too high, up to or near his opponent's head, and whether that was intentional or not, it was dangerous, really dangerous.
Apart from the fact that some referees have turned a blind eye to things like that, however, with some not even showing a yellow card for the offence, the rules of football state that a match should be between two teams off 11 players each, and that is how it should be.
One solution to that problem could be to send an offending player off the pitch for five minutes, or for 10 minutes, or 15 minutes at any time, depending on the degree of the offence.
Football is a beautiful sport, all 90 minutes of it, including the extra minutes for injury, and apart from the introduction of goal-line technology, that may be an answer for the offside problem, and, with some referees blowing their whistle and giving a spot kick and some doing nothing at all, something to determine when a referee should blow for a penalty, there is one more change which could, probably, make the game more beautiful.
The yellow card for 'diving', for example, seems a bit too much.
No one can truly say when a player is faking a foul, when a player is 'diving', and too many times, crucial times, referees take it on themselves to say a player is 'diving', to say a player is cheating.
The least little touch when a player is going full throttle can send him tumbling, and blowing for a 'dive' seems unfair to the player.
Sometimes, however, especially whenever I see a goalkeeper go towards a player with the ball, or towards a player approaching the ball, I say a quick prayer for the goalkeeper.
Sometimes whenever I see the two collide without the player even trying to get away from the goalkeeper, without even trying to get the ball away from the goalkeeper, sometimes when I see the player falling like a log, without even being touched, without being fouled by the goalkeeper, and the referee blowing his whistle, pointing to the spot, and sending the goalkeeper off the field, I wonder if the lawmakers expected the goalkeeper to stand his ground and look at the player score a goal, may be the goal which sentences his team to defeat.
As a footballer, as a goalkeeper, as a professional footballer and as a professional goalkeeper, that could never be in his blood.