Monday, October 04, 2010

de Jong dropped from Dutch national team after horror tackle on Ben Arfa

Good for the Dutch national team manager to drop the Manchester City hard man from the Dutch squad after what transpired this weekend. For those of you that do not know about the incident - it occurred in the 4th minute of the Manchester City v Newcastle match where the Dutch international went in very hard and with bad intent on Ben Arfa which resulted in a badly broken leg for the Newcastle man.

Video of the tackle - not as graphic, thankfully, as others we have seen on the pitch:

Clearly de Jong's intent was to stop the man and not the ball. I realize that football has elements of violence and these things happen. There is also room and at times needs to be "hard" players on the pitch. Players like Keane, Gattuso, Vieira, Essien or past players like Terry Butcher and Claudio Gentile are vital cogs to any team that can find such talents. Why? They do the dirty work, go after all 50-50 balls, stick their heads where boots are flying, are asked to shut down the opponents creativity and are expected to run hard for 90+ minutes and take a physical beating.

To be successful these players have to push the boundary with their physical play, but that is part of the job description. Will an opposing forward stick his boot somewhere if he knows he might get chopped down or go for a cross if he fears he might get an elbow to the ribs? Of course not, fear of pain and to some extent injury gives players pause and gives the defender an edge and therefore the advantage.

However de Jong has demonstrated that he regularly crosses this line when it comes to be the enforcer for his teams. Remember the karate kick for Holland in the World Cup finals, for which he should have been shown the straight red! I am still surprised that Alonso didn't crack a rib or worse! This latest incident falls into this category of crossing the line. Do I think his intent was to break Ben Arfa's leg? No. But his tackle was clearly meant to send a message, no intent of winning the ball just an opportunity to go after a creative player's legs to tell him "be careful dribbling around me because you might get hurt." No surprise that the tackle was early and targeted one of Newcastle's more creative players.

The fact at de Jong did not get a foul let a lone a card given, just as it happened in the World Cup final, is what is most criminal about the situation. As I stated, there needs to be some aspect of tough play in football, always has been always will be. However plays such as what happened needs to be policed whether on the pitch by the official or after the fact by the league. If reckless fouls are permitted on the games creative players how can we expect the game to be played as it was intended? I would rather see a Van Basten's career continue than be cut short because teams constantly hacked his ankles and legs to slow him down. The FA has been mum on this, to no surprise, the EPL has always been regarded as one of the most physical leagues in the world. However the money flows into the EPL because talented players come to play in the league, if they begin to fear for their safety that tide might shift elsewhere. I am glad the Dutch national team manager took a stand and dropped the player. Now up to the FA to do something about it.

Broken bones, sprains, bruises and tears will happen, it is part of the game. But blatant attempts to injure and egregious goon like tactics must be curbed.

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