Sunday 22 August 2010

Studs Alert: Stamp Out Stamping

The following incident occurred during a first-leg play-off round UEFA Champions League match between FK Partizan and RSC Anderlecht on Wednesday 18 August 2010. The match finished 2—2.

The five freeze frames show a cowardly act by Anderlecht player Mbark Boussoufa (dark blue #11). Unfortunately, this cynical, cowardly, and unsporting act appears to be occurring in matches with alarming frequency. Even more disturbing is the fact that referees do not appear to be taking the correct disciplinary action to curb this act. Do we want more legs to be broken before competition authorities, match officials, coaches, players, fans, commentators and the media take action to eliminate this cynical, cowardly, and unsporting act? For the good of the game, we must stamp out stamping.

In this 50-50 challenge, what is the difference between the approaches adopted by the two players? Hint: simply look at their left feet.

[Players showing or exposing their studs against opponents in challenges are cynical, cowardly, and unsporting. Note: in this instance, Partizan’s Almami Moreira (white#10) did not suffer a broken leg although his effectiveness in the match was hampered and he was duly substituted in the 53rd minute.]

Incredibly, a red card was not shown. A caution was not shown. A public talking to was probably not given. The only thing the referee gave was a direct free kick. How did the referee Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark) miss this? He was clearly in an optimum position (i.e. a position that gave him a clear, near and uninterrupted view).

[The referee has a clear, near and uninterrupted view of the challenge]

There used to be a time when challenges—although “meaty” and “fully committed”—were never cynical and cowardly. Back in those times, players going for a 50-50 ball (like the one pictured above) would always use either the front or side of their boot to challenge for the ball. It is only in recent times—which also rose to prominence during the 2010 World Cup … mainly because the referees in South Africa did not mete out the correct disciplinary action to send out the correct message—that players cynically expose their studs. Contrast this to the 2002 World Cup, when Brazil's Ronaldinho was correctly sent off for his cynical "over the top" challenge on England's Danny Murphy. For some reason, in the period between the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, this cynical, cowardly and unsporting act seems to have crept back into the game.

Referees should regard players who expose their studs or cleats at opponents as cynical, cowardly, and unsporting. We must stamp out stamping.

This culture of exposing studs as a way to intimidate and potentially inflict serious injury to an opponent needs to be eliminated from the game. In HKRef’s view, it is much more serious than the culture of diving (simulation) which has received a disproportionate amount of media attention. Let’s get our priorities in order. A player using studs in a challenge against an opponent should be sent-off for serious foul play; and a player guilty of simulation should be cautioned for unsporting behaviour. Both are cynical and unsporting acts, but the former also has the risk of ruining an opponent's career or livelihood. It is cowardly and it is a coward's challenge.

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