Adding insult to ignorance and injustice to injury

Posted: December 4, 2010 in Rants in my Pants

Well, you might say that if I am going to rant away like some grumpy old git shouting at his telly, there are more worthwhile injustices in the world to worry about: imperialist wars, neocolonial occupations, ethnic cleansing, poverty traps and economic exploitation, the ridiculous price of train tickets, crap TV, crap pubs, the amount of tax on booze, blue badge abusers, noisy ipods on the train, noisy mobile users on the train, the litter overflowing from the bins around the local school, etc., etc. You might say that I could use this blog more constructively than for my futile moaning about “the state of modern football, bla bla bla”. You might say that anyway it’s obvious to anybody sane how morally bankrupt so many aspects of football are these days, and that it’s a pointless waste of time going on about it here because FIFA, the FA/Premier League, the cheats and the other numbskulls are unlikely to be reading my stuff.  You might say that I might just as well waste my time writing e-mails to Cameron, Clegg, Obama or Santa Claus with helpful suggestions on how to stop global warming and World War Three. But on the assumption that WW3 doesn’t kick off in Korea or Iran this weekend and that the Great Student Fees Rebellion of 2010 will be successful in overthrowing our evil government, ushering in a worldwide domino effect, with global green revolution and an era of peace and co-operation for all mankind just in time for a merry old Christmas…. here I go again.

Because I am a grumpy old git shouting at his telly,  it is much more important than that, and sometimes the injustice is just so blatant you’ve got to let off steam about it. But to make sure the blog isn’t clogged up with moaning posts like this one, I’ll try to get three or four issues all off my chest at once: (i) the latest trends in diving; (ii) handball; (iii) two aspects of corner kick etiquette.

1. Dangerous Diving.

If it wasn’t galling enough to watch an ever-increasing gang of cheats getting away with the “stick-out-a-trailing-foot-to-catch-the-defender’s-leg” type of dive,  what about its cousin the “use-my-momentum-to-fall over-the-keeper-even-though-it-was-easier-to-avoid-him” ?

It’s this “penalty” incident at Stamford Bridge today that’s really got me going. Not just a deliberate dive by the forward, but practically an assault on the keeper, and yet nobody in the media seems at all scandalised by it. I  can understand how angles are often deceptive, which is why we need video referees, but I’m still amazed nobody, even on the highlights shows later, really picked up on this definite dive.  Look particularly at the third angle shown in the video. Howard’s positioning isn’t too clever, too far over to his near post, and Anelka could and should easily go to the right where he’s knocked the ball. At first you can’t believe he didn’t go that way, with such a great chance to score. You can only conclude that Anelka’s obvious scoring instinct is overcome by the cheating that’s been coached into him, so he propels himself into the collision, while a bewildered and pretty much static keeper makes an ineffectual attempt to protect himself from the assault. How is this a card for Tim Howard instead of one for Anelka ? The latter is lucky not get one yellow for the dive and another one for a nasty foul (yes, I know two yellows aren’t currently possible for one player in one incident, but they bloodywell should be).  Meanwhile poor Howard gets no treatment for his head injury – you can tell he’s suffering because his complaint about the decision is so plaintive, so muted, though heartfelt – and he’s still obviously half-dazed by the time Drogba drives the penalty home.

This sort of cheating is only any less obvious than say, Thierry Henry’s infamous handball against Ireland, because Anelka got lucky not only with the position of the match officials, but also with the main camera  angle. I’ve now heard commentary on this incident from 3 different TV channels and radio,  and none of them have bothered looking at the incident properly. On ESPN’s weekly highlights package this dive was described as “a stonewall penalty”.

Like an incident as obvious as Henry’s handball, this dive was a split-second attempt to gain an unfair advantage.  But this one is a worse kind of cheating than Henry’s, if anything, because this seemed more a considered choice than an instinctive one – it’s the type of thing the forward will in all probability have been deliberately trained to do by his coaching staff. Though to be fair it must be said that while Chelsea were particularly prone to such cheating under Mourinho, recently they haven’t seemed any worse than other teams.

Let’s get this straight. I’m a committed A.A.B.U. (Almost Anyone But United), and so obviously I’d rather Chelsea had won today rather than the defeat Anelka’s undetected dive deserved. So I wouldn’t normally be going on about this if it wasn’t just so bloody unjust. If bloody FIFA won’t bring in video refereeing, the English leagues can’t.  So we need to tackle this growing epidemic of cheating by other means, and I do think though that if TV and other media spent as much time trying to name and shame all such blatant offenders the way they did with that Thierry Henry handball incident, pulling no punches and making sure we don’t forget the incidents in a hurry, it really would start to hit home. And does anyone publish a league table for the number of dives, both for clubs and for individuals  ?  Not to mention the number of times each referee has been conned. And if not, why not ?

And back to my suggestion of two yellows for this particularly noxious type of dive. At the moment the ref can only give the offender a yellow for either the foul or the dive.  Well if you won’t bring in video refs, Herr Blatter, at least change the rules so you could book him for both offences, i.e. it will add up to a red card if he deliberately crashes into someone and then dives.

2. Balls to Hands

This is one where the referees  get it right more often the not, perhaps because they seem to know the rules, where just about everyone else in football acts as if they don’t. You’ll hear it in the crowd at a big match, on the touchline at a Sunday league match, and worst of all from the bloody players themselves.  I’m sick and tired of their gnarled appeals for handball when it obviously hasn’t been intentional. I didn’t think I could get any more sick and tired of it, but I always seem to surprise myself with another gear of nausea and world-weariness.

Even the commentators continually get it wrong: “the ball clearly strikes him on the hand”, they’ll say as if the replay we are seeing proves guilt, when according to the rules it in fact suggests innocence (though granted, there are other factors to be taken into account). This in turn encourages the kids and the Sunday league players to make their deluded, irritating appeals, whenever the ball strikes a hand. The other day a so-called “expert summariser”  told us authoratatively during a live commentary that “handball doesn’t have to be deliberate.”  Yes it bloody does you proven numpty, now get off my telly for ever.

And appealing for handball when it clearly couldn’t have been deliberate surely deserves a yellow card for “entering the field of play without sufficient knowledge of the rules”. Over to you again Herr Blatter.

3. Corner kick Etiquette

Over the last two decades, but accelerating out of control over the last few years, there’s been an increasing trend for players taking corner kicks in the Premier League (and other bigger grounds in the UK) to have to suffer streams of verbal abuse, much of it apparently obscene and personal, from nearby spectators. Why aren’t the stadium stewards and police taking action against individuals who seem very obviously to be breaking not only the norms of civilised society but laws of abusive behaviour ? What kind of lesson is this teaching the watching younsters, etc. etc, bla bla bla ? Wouldn’t it be great to see a player refuse to take a kick, or even better a referee refuse to let a kick be taken, till the abuse stops or is dealt with by the stewards ?

At several matches recently, though, I’ve noticed fans adding their ignorance of the rules to their insults, screaming their faces off about the ball not being in the corner quadrant when the kick is taken.  I’ve noticed it particularly since Steven Gerrard’s been injured, because Raúl  Meireles likes to position his left-wing corner kicks in exactly the same spot as I do when I take them, i.e. only just overhanging the quadrant line by 1 millimetre.  This is another one where I’ve even heard some of the more ignorant commentators join in (the same sort of pundits who would call for a ref to be suspended if he made an important error) . They realise that  when the ball goes out of play or across the goal-line, the part of the ball touching the ground has to be more than 4 inches over the line before it’s out, but they don’t seem to realise it’s not “out” of the quadrant if  part of the sphere is overhanging the line.

Please learn the rules before offering us your opinions, you ugly oafs in the corner – oh and by the way, he’s placed the ball precisely there so he can be at least another 4 inches away from your horrible faces, foul breaths and smelly bodies you  ignorant  tw*ts.

Check out Paul Trevillion’s wonderfully-illustrated “you are the ref” cartoon from the Guardian on this topic. Click on number two to enlarge it.from
2) Keith Hackett’s answer: No – allow the kick to go ahead. The ball is overlapping the arc, so the positioning is valid. The ball’s contact with the ground can be up to 4.5 inches from the corner arc, with the ball overlapping but not actually touching the line (because the radius of a ball is 4.3 to 4.46 inches).

In fact, check out the whole series, which should be included in a compulsory exam for all spectators, as well as commentators and pundits.     …and if you really must buy someone a football book for Xmas, you could do a lot worse than the book of the series.

[I first got to know Paul “Roy of the Rovers” Trevellion’s wonderful “You are the Ref” cartoon strips in “Shoot!” magazine of the early 70s, but he’s been writing them for 58 years in total. “Viz” comic in the late 80’s/early 90’s used to do some great pisstakes of them – please let me know if you can send me any text or images from those.]


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