Football supporter-wannabes: Learn the Rules!

I just read in today’s The Star, a letter from a Man Utd supporter published in the Football section.

In the letter (Great game), the author (P.C. Wan), writes a typical post gloating over Man Utd’s recent victory over Arsenal.

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.


13 thoughts on “Football supporter-wannabes: Learn the Rules!”

  1. I am a Man Utd supporter but I wasn’t quite happy with the game either. TO end Arsenal’s unbeaten run in Old Trafford is a good thing but to win with a diving striker is something I don’t want to see. I had good impression on Rooney after Euro 2004 but now he’s just a ruthless fat boy. There are no chemistry between C.Ronaldo and Rooney, infact the brightest young star in Man Utd right now is Alan Smith. Arsene Wenger got it right, Man Utd didn’t play with a good spirit and for the first time in years I lost my respect to Man Utd.

    As for the Ferdinand case, these kind of Ref’s mistake happened once in a while and I have no problem with that. Ronaldo was brought down in a penalty box but didn’t get any penalty. I was shocked to hear that RVD was banned for 3 matches (a day before yesterday’s news) and it really doesn’t look like he did it on purpose.

    You are just angry about the letter because you are a Liverpool fan. Don’t worry, Liverpool still have once match in hand and they might be able to be on top of Man Utd FOR ONCE! yeahhahhhaha

  2. CS: See, I knew I would be misinterpreted. 😉

    The fact I’m a Liverpool supporter has nothing to do with this post. I don’t even care whether Rio did or did not commit a foul, or whether he should have been sent off, or whether Rooney dived.

    All I’m saying is, if someone’s going to say (as the letter-writer did) that Rio should be penalised for fouling Ljungberg, BUT that he shouldn’t be sent off for doing so, shows ignorance of the laws of the game.

    That’s all.

  3. CS: Oh, and since you brought it up – we DID finish above Man Utd not too long ago. 2001/02 season. Liverpool finished 2nd, Man Utd finished 3rd.
    Yes it was the first time in a long, long while, and I doubt we’ll do it this season. 🙂

  4. I’m a loyal reader 😉

    Probably because of your Anfield ‘roots’.

    But really, fans just have to accept that in some matches, decisions will go the other way. Yes we might feel we’ve been robbed but that’s why we watch this game. If not for all the controversies, it won’t be as interesting. The day football (the REAL football) resorts to video referee will be the day the sport dies.

    And about ‘fan logic’, we are all guilty. I’ve not seen an unbiased fan. Take a look at official club homepages after a defeat and you’d see some remarkably positive post match ‘reviews’.

    Fans and controversies are just part of the beautiful game. How else can we yak for hours and how else can Tiger pay those yummy beer girls?

  5. yeah i remembered that man utd 77 and Liverpool 80, broke my heart. Anyway I didn’t doubt your soccer rules knowledge, or the stupidity of the person who wrote to THE STARS. I said that because you were comparing the case with the example of Liverpool vs Man Utd match in the past. Reading your post made my leg itchy, thank god I am playing soccer later.

    Btw, how did the case of THE STARS plagiarized your post? Did they say anything about it?

  6. CS: Itchy legs? Careful, don’t play in defence – you might accidentally score an own goal! 😀

    About the Star ‘plagiarism’ thing, no response at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

  7. Haha, itchy hands is something like itchy legs? rest assured that my itchy hands always clicks over to your blog ;o)

    But Sashi, I agree with you completely about knowing what you’re talking about before commenting on an issue. that’s why i just support, and keep my big mouth shut.

    however being a blogger, i kinda tend to just say whatever i damn well feel like saying, even if i don’t know the whole story. but then again, that’s what makes blogging so fun.

  8. Some people just think they are an authority in football jsut because they understand the off-side rule. These people need to be whacked in the head with a whistle.

    On the different note, Cisse is out for the season. Damn, the boy was just coming around good. I don’t know why Blackburn have to break at least one guy’s leg everytime we go there.

  9. Sigh… Cisse out for the season, and we’re only left with Baros as an out and out experienced striker. Interesting to see whether Rafa actually would give Sinama and Mellor a chance before the January transfer window now. I’m pretty sure now that we’ll be getting a striker then, but who… is anyone’s guess.

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