Wednesday 1 February 2012

Stamp Out Stamping: Balotelli's Boot

The following incident occurred during the EPL match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday 22 January 2012. The match finished 3—2, with Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli being instrumental in winning a penalty in stoppage time and converting the spot-kick to win the match for this team.

In the 83' Spurs midfielder Scott Parker (white) blocks a shot from Balotelli (blue). Here are the freeze frames:
Referee Howard Webb appears to be more concerned with looking at the ball

This is a clear stamp by Balotelli on Parker, and could have resulted in a serious head injury had Balotelli's boot landed flush on Parker's head. Referees should also be aware of the potential likelihood of head injuries that may result from collisions between players.

Referee Howard Webb appears to be looking at the incident but Webb's line of sight is probably not focused downward toward Parker's head

Referees should not listen too closely to what players say. Good Referees put more emphasis on evaluating players' actions as opposed to their words.

Balotelli looking all 'sweet and innocent'

Graham Poll's comments:
"I struggle with the fact that Howard Webb didn't see it but then he didn't see six studs land on someone's chest in the World Cup [reference to Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands for kicking out at Xavi Alonso of Spain]. I like Howard, I think he's a great referee but basic instructions to referees are that if two players clash and you cannot trust them then you shouldn't leave them on their own. You stop play - it's as simple as that."

"If Howard Webb did look away, why? As a referee, you are taught to hold your gaze. Be sure. Look for 'afters'. It is basic refereeing."

Harry Redknapp, Spurs coach, comments:
"The first one could have been an accident, but on the second one he's backheeled him straight in the head. It is not the first time he has done that and I am sure it won't be the last. I am the last person to talk about getting people sent off and what they should and shouldn't do. But it is blatant."

Alan Hansen, BBC Sport football pundit:
"I think he stamps on him. When you hit the ground you don't stamp and there's a definite stamp there. The referee is five yards away. I think he should have given him a red card."

Lee Dixon, BBC Sport football pundit:
"I think you've got to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's not looking at Parker. Looking at his left leg, it's actually off the ground. I know it looks bad but no-one can possibly tell."

Referee Tip
Always consider whether the player in question would act in exactly the same way had the person on the receiving end been a team-mate or a close friend. Players have a certain duty of care toward other players, and this is usually clearly seen (and appreciated) amongst sporting players who do not wish any misfortune on their fellow professionals or to their own team-mates.

This was perhaps the best comment from ex-Referee Dermot Gallagher, who "believes Balotelli should have been sent off but does not think referee Howard Webb should be blamed for missing the incident."
"After countless replays I think it's a red card but I think it's still a very subjective thing to look at. Only Mario really knows what he was thinking and what he was doing and that's the problem the FA may have. When [Webb] looks back, the incident has already taken place and in many ways he's done the FA a service if they need to take action because, by not gambling and suddenly hooking out a yellow card and making a mistake, he's left it alone and the process can take place."

Follow Up
The FA have taken retrospective action against Mario Balotelli's stamp on Scott Parker (see Balotelli charged over 'stamp' on Parker).

It is interesting how most of the media reports only suggest that it appeared to be a stamp (or 'stamp').
*I'll have something to say about this "lack of precision" in a future post.

Follow Up Note: The Spanish FA (RFEF) did not take retrospective action against Pepe for his stamp on Lionel Messi in the Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona (see Pepe Le Pew Part 1What a Stinker Part 2).

These mixed signals ultimately send out the wrong message. Competition organisers, especially those like the FA and RFEF who have a high-profile standing and therefore undertake a huge responsibility in protecting the image of the game, should take action and should be seen to take action on offenders.

The FA is to be condoned for taking retrospective action against Balotelli's behaviour in the EPL, whereas the RFEF is to be condemned for not taking similar measures against Pepe's behaviour in La Liga.

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