New Premier League Respect Campaign- An April Fool’s Joke?

To Gain Respect One Must Earn It First

So the motto goes.  Problem with referees is that no matter what you say to them on the pitch you are hardly going to change their mind.  So whether its either “please ref, I got the ball,” or “fuck off ref, I got the fucking ball you blind twat,” the result is likely to be the same.  The ref’s decision is final.  There is of course the school of though about working the referees.  Meaning that if you moan long and loud enough you will get the benefit of the doubt next time, if for no other reason that to shut you up.  I wonder how effective that one is?  I would think that its not as effective as some players believe.  Whether one is respectful or not, its quite futile.  If anything it may just annoy the referee in question.

And players should not want annoyed referees.  Nor should the managers.  I do not believe that the refs are biased, no matter how they appear.  But subconsciously there might be something.  Something that in an instant would make them give a questionable decision against the team they are annoyed with.  Its not a knock on their integrity, its just how human beings work.  A professional referee should of course be above that, but as mentioned, they do belong to our species (its true, they did tests and everything), and are flawed.  A month ago Manchester United visited Chelsea.  And Martin Atkinson had a shocker.  I said this already in the first half.  Before the Luiz non sending off.  United had most of the ball, were not playing physically and in the whole game United were officially fouled 10 times, while the whistle blew 14 times against them.  Now I do not think that Atkinson is a bent ref, but I wholeheartedly agree with Fergie when he said Atkinson was not fair.  He was not.  He sent of Vidic but not Luiz, who could have received 3 yellow cards.  He did not call a penalty on Terry.  And he let several obvious calls go when Chelsea players were fouling United players.  So bent?  No.  Fair?  Hell no!

Martin Atkinson worked the same fixture last season too.  Chelsea got a very soft free kick near the United box, and scored.  There was an obvious foul by a Chelsea player in the area where the ball arrived and because of it Terry was able to score.  Nothing was called and United went on to lose the game by the score 1-0 and then lose the championship to Chelsea by one point.  Is it any wonder why Fergie is not happy with Mr. Atkinson?  To be fair of course, United had their share of favourable calls.  Its not about that really.  Its about the reaction and the new respect campaign that was the result of said reaction.

Fergie got a five game suspension for calling refs shit.  Atkinson unfair and weak, and Whiley (the 2 out of the 5 games are for him) fat and unfit the season before.  And make no mistake, if Fergie does not say this last comment about Atkinson there is no new respect campaign.  So Fergie has a go at a ref.  Now there is breaking news for you!!!  And the FA and the Ref’s association are appalled.  Why?  Was he wrong?  No, only Chelsea fans and ABU’s think Atkinson was fair.  And even some of them will quietly agree with Fergie.  Its not as if the FA and the refs went all out to defend Mr. Atkinson’s performance.  No they just said Fergie should not be saying such things.  And herein lies the problem.  There is no communication.  Now Fergie may have (very likely actually) said all this to deflect from United’s inept second half, but he was still right.  Problem was Fergie has a perfect excuse.  Just minutes after the game he has a microphone shoved into his face and instead of being asked about the tactics, formation, adjustments, he gets asked about the non sending off of Luiz.  So he goes off on a bit of a rant, an accurate one too, and gets five games in the better seats and a private phone line.  And other than shock at Fergie no one from the authorities came out and explained Mr. Atkinson’s decisions.  Mr. Atkinson himself is not allowed to, because god forbid he should explain to the fans why he did what he did.  God forbid we learn how a referee comes to a split second decision.  We don’t want a media fight between the refs and managers or players.  But a nice statement explaining major decisions (such as I did not see the foul, upon reflection I think I got the call wrong, but in the heat of the moment I thought it was the right call, please remember I do not have the benefit of the replay on the pitch).  You know, controversial stuff like that.  A simple explanation and a reminder to all of us that they have only a second to make that call and no replays.  How shocking would that be?  Now of course some see this idea as referees having to answer every questionable decision and if once they do engage in the debate their will be sucked into it.

Terry showing respect

The problem is they are sucked into it anyway, without us hearing from the man who actually made the call.  Now how many of us would love to have Mr. Clettenberg explain that Nani goal against Spurs?  Or why he did not send of Rooney and his elbow?  A simple and short explanation of his point of view and we could move on.  Instead we speculate to this day.  And we wait.  We would still have to wait to find out why Graham Poll waited for a third yellow to send of that Croatian bloke in the 2006 WC, but he wrote a book.  Because of said book we got to find out why John Terry was sent off by Mr. Poll in the 200-07 season.  Right in the middle of the FA’s  last Respect campaign.  Wonder how Mr. Poll felt about that one?  Oh wait!  We know, he retired and told us what he thought of it.  It was a joke.  He dared to send off the captain of England for dissent and stories started in the media.  Mr. Poll was a spotlight whore.  he loved to be the centre of attention.  And what did the FA do, even after Terry admitted to the charge?  Nothing.  They did not back their referee.  And soon after that the respect campaign became a joke, we went back to Rooney, Terry, Cole, Gerrard and others abusing and arguing with the refs.  But apparently Sir Alex Ferguson is the problem.  Players are really an afterthought.

This incident did not reignite the respect campaign

And its not what happens after the game, whether or not Babel retweets some silly picture, or what Fergie or Moyes says.  Who cares!!!  Because for 90 minutes I see constant arguing by the players, they question every decision.  I see players trying to get other players sent off by either waiving that annoying imaginary card or screaming at the ref reminding him about a previous decision.  And I have a feeling that by this time next year we will have as much respect on the pitch as we do now.  Because the authorities will not back the refs.  Nor will the media.  The media will moan when the first ref sends off a famous player for dissent.  “Oh no, he destroyed the game, he should have done everything to keep 22 players on the pitch, he thinks he’s important, he wants the spotlight, arrogant ref, is that really worth a sending off, etc, etc,.”  You can see the headlines now.  And soon after that the refs will be told to quietly ignore the abuse, the cheating, the card waving, and we will go on as always.

I noticed something this week.  I was watching the friendly between Germany and Australia.  And while Germany had some shocking calls go against them, especially that joke of a penalty, the German players hardly went after the ref and his assistants.  They made weak protests or none at all, and went on with the game.  Meanwhile Australian players, especially the EPL veteran Lucas Neill was in the ref’s face after every call no matter how obvious.  It was a stark contrast in reactions.  But the Germans were taught that dissent will be punished, while Mr. Neill got away with it for years in England.  How else was he supposed to react?  I watch the NHL and I remember the times when coaches used to throw water bottles and sticks onto the ice in protest, and players went after refs like they do in English football.  But not long ago the NHL instituted a no nonsense policy, and no dissent is allowed.  And the players just meekly go in to the penalty box even after the worst of calls. while the coaches politely ask sometimes for an explanation.  Imagine that.

Rooney, "respectfully" disagreeing

Imagine Rooney or Ashley Cole just walking away after a bad call, or standing quietly while they are being booked for an offence.  Yes its fantasy, but in any other country it does happen.  Unlikely in England of though.  The refs are too weak, the authorities are cowards and the media complicit.  A perfect storm for the first time someone gets sent off.  Now while this month long story about Fergie and Atkinson raged I laughed.  I have no problem when managers speak their minds, even if they question the refs in a manner that Fergie did.  I don’t even have a problem if managers give a bit of abuse to the fourth official during the game.  Its no biggie, the fourth official does nothing anyway, so who cares if he gets an earful.  My problem is that after the game no one will explain to us why the calls were made.  No matter what Fergie said I have my own opinions.  Now being a United fan I think of Fergie as god.  But bing an atheist I don’t really believe in what gods say.  So he could have come out and said that Atkinson had done the best job he has ever seen and I would still think he was utter shite.  I do have eyes and a brain.  So do most fans.  We know that Fergie was trying to deflect.  We only agreed with Fergie about Atkinson, he did not change our minds.  And that is the issue.  Who cares what the managers say after games.  They questions they are asked are stupid, pointless, and obvious anyway, and most of the time the answers are bland, cookie cutter, obvious crap.  A big yawn.

And that is what the new respect campaign will be if the FA wont change.  We all have a good laugh, to this day, at Graham Poll, but he was a very good ref.  And that is how the authorities supported one of its best.  How will they support the next ref who dares to act?  I think in the same way.  In order for this new joke of a campaign to work, before each game the referees must call the two captains and tell them that no dissent will be tolerated, only the captains can speak to the ref (respectfully), no one is allowed to touch or approach closer than 3 feet of the refs, and card waving will mean an instant yellow.  And any break of said rules will mean a caution, or in serious cases a sending off, and then the refs must follow their own instructions.  And afterward the league and ref association must back the refs fully.  And let them speak for god’s sake!  And this must continue not for 3 months but for the whole season and seasons beyond.  And the managers must be given some slack about what they say during the game or after it.  Only then will this work.  because the first time Ashley Cole refuses to come to the ref when called and gets away with it, the respect campaign will be over!!!

Diving In Football (Soccer)- Get Over It!!!

Diving is cheating.

Yes it is.  No one, even the divers themselves can pretend otherwise.  Oh sure they can say they jumped out of the way in order to avoid a tackle because if they did not they might get hurt.  And they probably might have a point, if they did in fact lost balance.  Half the time they do not.  They are “helping” the referee see that there was indeed intent and a foul, or an attempt at a foul.  So lets not kid ourselves here.  Divers are cheats.  There is nothing really honourable about falling down when one was not touched.  My intention here is not to defend the act, in some cases, art, of diving on a football pitch.  It is cheating.  It is that simple.

However, it is not the worst thing that happened to football.  Nor is it a new phenomenon.  And it is not only perpetrated by those dishonest southern foreigners as the English love to claim.  Diving is as old as fouling.  Everyone does it.  And again, is is not a crime against humanity or sport.  Yet, many act like it is.  Every time someone gets caught in a blatant dive there is a big controversy about it, there are calls for video reviews and suspensions.  Hell, some countries have that system in place and use it to retroactively punish the divers, sometimes, if blatant enough, with a multiple game suspension.  My problem is that all this controversy and faux outrage is bullshit and as dishonest as diving itself.  Actually more so.

Lets look at diving itself.  Now its been happening for decades, no matter how people even older than I am try to claim otherwise through selective memory.  So all this outrage is false and dishonest.  Especially when its directed at foreign players (I am talking about England mostly, being fan of English football).  There is this myth that for the most part English players don’t dive.  Its bullshit of course as there are as many English players diving as there are foreigners.  But English fans want to believe that their countrymen are better and more honest.  The English emphasize honesty and hard work, so of course none of their heroes would dive.  If they do then its a one off of course.  That is another myth.  English players are as good at diving as the rest of the world is.

The Honest English Footballer

If a foreigner dove to win a penalty in a Champions League Final then the English press would talk about if for years.  Yet when an English player did it, he was a hero for starting a great comeback.  But hypocrisy aside lets look at what the big deal about diving is.  As I keep saying its cheating.  In several cases its even trying to get a player booked, and possibly sent off, to gain an unfair advantage.  However, many times there was a real attempt to foul and only the dive avoided contact.  So in many cases it really is what the cheaters claim, trying to protect oneself from possible injury.  Diving is simulation.  Simulation is bad.  But falling down is actually better than real simulation, like when after a tackle, a player pretends to be injured.  And wastes everyone’s time!!!  30 seconds later we see him back on the pitch running at full speed fully recovered from his career ending injury.  Its pathetic.  That I hate more than the actually falling over.

And when we get all hot and bothered about diving we don’t mind other forms of cheating.  Yet another hypocrisy from football fans.  No one ever complains about two players from opposing teams raising their hands for a corner/goal kick, when they both know who touched the ball last.  That is also deceiving the referee.  OK, a player might not be booked as a consequence, but one of them is cheating.  Every corner kick or a throw in has a “controversy.”  Players actually argue over these decisions trying to influence the officials and the decision does have consequences, no matter how much we pretend that it does not.  Players simulate, cheat, when they claim innocence after fouling someone.  Players actually ask for other players to be booked.  That last one is against the rules, and should be punished by a yellow card, yet the referees, being cowards, do not caution players for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Yet most of the above mentioned offenses rarely cause controversy or even registers on the fans’ radar.  Its the divers who are ruining the game.  Diving is punishable by a yellow card.  But most football fans, and pundits, actually want divers sent off, or retroactively suspended for a game or more.  That would put diving alongside violent conduct, like leg breaking tackles.  And why?  Because its not manly.  Yes, divers are pussies who refuse to stay on their feet, and possibly, in some cases, get their legs broken, and we want to punish them like we do players who sometimes intentionally injure their fellow professionals.  Its not manly.

That is the only explanation.  Its not because its dishonest.  We tolerate all kind of dishonesty from players, even dirty tackling.  Its not that its unprofessional, several times per game many players waste time deliberately, they berate referees, they simulate injury, they claim innocence.  We tolerate unprofessional behaviour that slows down the game and we don’t mind when our players have a go at the ref.  That is fine.  As long as a players does not fall down, we pretty much will tolerate anything.

Then we come to the refs and diving itself.  Was there really intent?  Well it all depends if its my player or the opposition player.  If its my player, then he fell down avoiding a dirty tackle and simply lost balance.  If its a player on the opposing team he fell down because he is a pussy and a cheat who tried to gain an unfair advantage and deceive the referee.  There are not many clear cut incidents when we can all agree about a dive.  Yet many people want video review and suspensions of players accused of diving.  The reviewers must assume intent, otherwise it was not a dive.  And of the several of the most notorious cases debated over years, about half were clear cut.  So the system would be based on assumptions, and possibly reputations.  What about minimal contact?  Possibly not enough to make someone fall down if that someone really tried to stay in their feet.  Is that diving?  Was it not a foul in the first case?  And if there was contact, then it was a foul, no matter how minimal the contact was, sometimes it does not take much to make someone running at full speed fall over.  In that case it was not a dive.  Yet we still moan about it and call it a dive.

And here is where the refs come in.  Over the years I watched Ronaldo (Cristiano, not the fat one) dive many a time.  However, most times he was properly fouled, or simple lost balance avoiding a foul.  And as the years went by the refs became more and more reluctant to call a foul when they saw Ronaldo on the ground.  And they never called a foul, even when he was indeed fouled, unless he did in fact fall.  A player does not have to fall down in order to be fouled.  But the referees are very reluctant to use their whistle if a players stays on his feet.  So players go down easily.  And the refs call even less fouls because they see players fall down after what they view as minimal contact.  And in circles we go.  Its the chicken or the egg argument.  Do players fall over easily because the referees refuse to blow the whistle unless they do go down, or do refs not whistle for fouls because they think players dive.

The referees are a big problem in this.  They refuse to take charge and do their jobs.  Just as they refuse to call fouls in the penalty box.  Or book players for waving an imaginary card, or book players early in the game.  Or book players for blatantly fouling players who have reputations of diving.  They refuse to make decisions and apply the laws of the game consistently.  The idiots on television do not help, they talk about common sense, about trying to keep 11 players on the pitch, about intent, as if that mattered.  If the referees explained that they will not tolerate holding in the penalty box players would stop, they certainly would stop if a couple of penalties were called.  But then the refs would be slated by the same idiots on television for influencing the game or trying to be in the limelight.  As if applying the laws of the game was trying to influence it.  Its idiotic.

The referees are human of course and will make mistakes.  And there should be a system in place for the refs to explain their decisions and for overturning their mistakes.  But we do not have that in football.  A referee can not talk to the media, even if all the fans want an explanation.  A yellow card can not be rescinded, unless it was mistaken identity.  And the refs are cowards.  They will shy away from a decision.  Many a time we see a player fall down in a penalty box, and the offending player claim innocence while the player who fell down calls for a foul.  The ref only smiles and waves for the player to get up and runs away.  That is bullshit.  If both players are claiming something different, one of two things happened.  A foul and a penalty should be called with a possible caution for the offender, or the diver should be cautioned for diving.  Yet half the time nothing happens.  And half the time the ref did not do his job.

And when this happens more and more do we really wonder why players do fall down?  If you are almost never going to get a foul called when you try to stay on your feet, why would you?  If you were getting hacked throughout the whole match why would you not try to avoid it and fall down in any case to make sure the offender got punished?  Because its unsportsmanlike and not manly?  Well fuck that.  What is so sportsmanlike and manly about deliberately hacking down a fellow professional just because you could not get the ball off him?  That is cheating.  As bad, worse in my opinion, as  diving itself.

And it comes down to this.  We tolerate certain forms of cheating but scream bloody hell about others.  Diving is cheating and when a ref sees it he should punish a player with a yellow card.  And if anyone wants video reviews, then the same should happen.  A retroactive yellow card.  Just because the ref did not see the dive during the game it should not mean that the player should be punished extra for it.  We do not punish violent incidents that the refs miss that way.  The offenders get the standard punishment.  Not double or triple the suspension.  That would not make any sense.  Everyone needs to come down about diving and use common sense.  Its just another, among many, form of cheating that players do during the game.  Why do we make one thing special and ignore another.  Football has many problems, diving should not be on top of the list of things that are wrong with football.  So yes, do get over it.

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 7:00 am  Comments (3)  
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