Now, I have no problems concerning the outcome of that match. Yes, the penalty was contentious (at best) and RVN’s foul on Ashley Cole is deplorable and he deserves the three-match ban. Other than that, I don’t give a toss. I’m a Liverpool supporter, and I couldn’t care less if these other two (admittedly) giants of the English game kick each other to pieces.
But back to the letter.
Regular readers of the pullout would know that P.C. Wan writes in pretty regularly, and like most football supporters (myself included), tends to drift into using hyperbole when describing his team’s performances. Nothing wrong with that – it’s every football fan’s prerogative really.
But it annoys me when people try to justify incidences (like fouls) without any regard to the rules of the game.
With reference to the oft-discussed Rio-Ljungberg incident, the letter-writer had this to say:
It was apparent that Rio should have been penalised for his crucial tackle on Ljungberg (but certainly not a red card!).
What? Lookie here, people. This guy either doesn’t know the rules, or has conveniently forgotten it.
It’s one thing to say that Rio didn’t commit a foul – and indeed, it’s entirely plausible that Ljungberg cut across Rio’s path in order to force the Man Utd defender to barge into him. It’s all a matter of interpretation. (Actually, I think it was a foul, but this is not about my opinions anyway.)
But to say that, “yes, it’s a foul, but no, don’t send him off” is simply incorrect.
Let’s look at the facts.
When Rio Ferdinand and Freddie Ljungberg came into contact with each other, Rio was the last defender and Ljungberg was running directly towards goal (i.e. he had an obvious goalscoring opportunity).
Now let’s assume that, as P.C. Wan implies, that Rio committed a foul there by tackling Ljungberg.
According to the official FIFA rules, when “an attacker is moving towards goal with an obvious goalscoring opportunity when he is tripped by a defender [..] The defender is sent off for denying an opponent a goalscoring opportunity.”
See? IF Rio did foul Ljungberg, then the referee (Mike Riley) has NO OPTION but to send him off. Remember when Liverpool played Manchester United at Old Trafford two seasons ago? Sami Hyypia was sent off after about four minutes, when he was adjudged to have brought down RVN and thereby denying him a goalscoring opportunity. Oh, and guess who the referee was that day? Mike Riley.
This is what the Guardian article states regarding the Hyypia sending-off:
The rules were properly and necessarily applied to Hyypia. There is now a fad for complaining of “double punishment” when a team loses a man and a goal from the spot but it was not so long ago that the football community campaigned for laws that put attackers at an advantage. If there are second thoughts, correspondence had better be addressed to Fifa not Mr Riley.
I’m not going to go into how Mr Riley seems to have a penchant for awarding penalties at Old Trafford, or even whether he should or shouldn’t have blown for a foul when Rio and Ljungberg crashed together.
My point is this (and forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but I just don’t want to be misinterpreted): IF Rio fouled Ljungberg as the Swede ran towards goal, than it means that Rio, as the last defender and as having denied his opponent an obvious goalscoring opportunity, should have been SENT OFF as stated in the FIFA rules.
My other point is that if you’re going to justify, provide excuses or mitigate such fouls, like the letter-writer has done, it would be wise to learn the rules of the game in relation to the particular foul in question.
I should write in to the paper stating what I had just said, but then the letter probably wouldn’t be published until next week (if at all). By then, the Old Trafford clash would have been consigned to the past (although I doubt it, given the British tabloids’ penchant for playing up such controversies).
So I’ll just leave my rant confined here in this blog, to be read by my legion of loyal readers. (Yeah, right.)
Now back to work.