Thursday, March 07, 2013

To red or not to red - officiating impacts a game again

If you watched the Manchester United v Real Madrid match at Old Trafford the one incident that has stirred the most controversy, rightfully so, was the sending off of Nani for what appeared to be a studs high challenge on Arbeloa.

When you see the play in real time it does appear to be a malicious challenge. However, and of course the official on the pitch does not have this luxury, when you see the play in replay it is clear that Nani does not have an intent on driving his boot through the Spaniards chest. But rather Nani is clearly looking to trap a high ball that is spinning away from him, reason for his toes pointing up (to curl around the ball...I have tried to do this but alas do not have that level of ability). Good video and analysis below:

Is it a red card? I have to say no. Was it reckless? Yes. A yellow and a warning, but no red. This incident did get me thinking about red cards and how they really impact a game. Clearly with Nani out, Manchester United lost their shape and being a man down conceded two goals to the Spanish giants. A lack of red card also impacted the World Cup final in 2010 between Holland and Spain. When De Jong gave his best impression of Mortal Kombat and kicked Alonso, studs high, right in the chest.

Did the Dutch midfielder get a red? Which he should have! No. Instead he got a yellow and was allowed to continue playing in the finals. I am sure that Howard Webb, the official for the finals, was aware that sending off a player in a World Cup final, at the beginning of the match, would have changed the face of the game. Drastically. So instead of doing what was right - straight red - he did what was right for the moment.

But that isn't right either! The rules of the game should not change depending on the situation. So here is a thought about the straight red card. If a player receives a straight red card, like Nani did for Manchester United or what De Jong should have received for Holland, that player is still taken off the pitch. However, the team, if they have a substitution available, can bring on another player. Nani got his red at the 57th minute, United still had all three of their substitutions available. If Webb had done what he should have - red carded De Jong - the Dutch could have inserted a new player in his place. I would make this rule hold only for the first red card, and only on a straight red card. If you get a red for two yellows, sorry, you had your warning and shouldn't have been an idiot. If your team is undisciplined enough to get more than 1 straight red a game...sorry play a man down.

This change would allow officials to properly call red cards when necessary - De Jong. As well as allow teams that suffer a red car - Manchester United - from losing a key player but not losing a man on the pitch. I think that losing a starter, as well as a substitution are not "light" punishments. At least the game would not be bastardized as it was at Old Trafford...or in South Africa.

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