Friday 22 March 2013

Was Cuneyt Cakir Conscious Of Colluding With Collina?

Some readers have asked for an account on this blog regarding the highly-publicized fallout (see BBC Sport, The Telegraph) from Turkey Referee Cuneyt Cakir's decision to send off Nani in the UCL Round of 16 2nd Leg match between Manchester United and Real Madrid on Tuesday 5 March 2013. The match finished 1—2, with Real Madrid progressing 2—3 on aggregate. There were 5YCs and 1RC.

Referee Cuneyt Cakir sends off Manchester United's Nani (red 17). Pic courtesy of PA.

It is noticeable that many Referees (see here) have sided with Cakir's decision, claiming that it was a send off for serious foul play, while other Referees did not think the incident warranted a red card (see Dermot Gallagher). Also, with the exception of Roy Keane, the majority of players, ex-players and fans thought Cakir's decision was harsh. Here's HKRef's take on the incident:

First Consideration
Cakir sent off Nani for serious foul play, which means a player is dismissed for using "excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play". The laws further state: "A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play."

The Nani—Arbeloa challenge. Pic courtesy of EPA.

Following these Laws to the letter, it is easy for everyone to understand why Cakir was not wrong to send off Nani. Cakir's view is Nani endangered the safety of his opponent.

Second Consideration
However, only a few days earlier in the English Premier League match between Stoke City and West Ham United on 2 March 2013, Stoke's Peter Crouch launched into a bicycle kick and connected flush with Matt Taylor's face, and knocked him out for a few seconds.

Stoke's Peter Crouch (red/white 25) connects with West Ham's Matt Taylor's jaw. Pics courtesy of PA.
West Ham's Demel (maroon 20) reacts in anger towards Crouch

Referee Jon Moss awarded a free kick to West Ham and was wrong not to caution Crouch.

To many referees this was a reckless challenge. "Reckless" is defined as a player who has "acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent. A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned."

The Laws state: "A scissors or bicycle kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent."

Further Considerations
The Crouch—Taylor scenario also technically fits the criteria of serious foul play because the offender endangered the safety of his opponent. But Crouch's action had no malice or any intent to injure. Plus players react to and accept bicycle kicks all the time; we know this because such kicks are used frequently by players.

It is these two definitions — one for a sending-off, the other for a caution — that appear to contradict each other. For bicycle kicks, players intuitively know it is reckless because there is no intent to kick an opponent, only a complete disregard to, since the offender does not look at his opponent before executing the kick.  
Q: Did Crouch's bicycle kick endanger the safety of an opponent? If yes, then RC.

Now consider the Nani—Arbeloa challenge; was it reckless or serious foul play? Did Nani intend to kick Arbeloa with his studs exposed and was Nani looking at Arbeloa? Also, the reactions of the players told us that, at most, it was a reckless challenge. Had Cakir cautioned Nani for being reckless, he would not have been wrong.  
Q: Did Nani act with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent? If Yes, then YC.


The problem perhaps lies with the Laws and the way different competition organisers interpret them. The argument that "Nani deserves a red card on the continent and only a caution in England" is ignorant.

We can see from the reaction of Real Madrid's players that in Spain Nani would not have expected to be sent off either. The respective Football Associations in England, Spain, Germany, France and the Netherlands would likely interpret Nani's challenge to be reckless.

But UEFA is the competition organiser of the Champions League. Its referees committee, headed by Pierluigi Collina, manages its interpretation of the Laws and relies on top FIFA match officials from Europe to implement them publicly. Apparently, Collina and his Committee view this type of challenge as serious foul play.

Therefore, Cakir had an incentive to exhibit boldness and send off Nani at Old Trafford because he knew Collina was assessing him, probably with May's Wembley final in mind. Collusion?

A Final Note
Looking at the slow motion replays, did anyone detect Nani apparently straightening his right leg in the split-second after the coming together of both players? In real time, it is hard to detect, but this could be Cakir's proper justification in issuing a straight red (providing, of course, that Cakir saw it in real time).

Monday 18 March 2013

McManaman: Mistimed or Malicious Tackle?

The following incident occurred during the EPL match between Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United on Sunday 17 March 2013. The match finished 2—1; there were 2 YCs.

In the first half, Wigan forward Callum McManaman (blue) challenges for the ball against Newcastle's Massadio Haidara (yellow). Here are the dynamic frames (courtesy of The Telegraph):

Here is Referee Mark Halsey's position.
Apparently, Halsey did not (or could not) see the incident and actually stopped play moments later with a DFK to Newcastle for an infringement made by Wigan. It is hoped the FA will therefore take retrospective action against McManaman.

The pitch location of the incident means that both ARs were too far away (i.e. in excess of 30 yards) to attain a close view. There have been suggestions that AR2 Matthew Wilkes had a clear view (see here). However, this is likely to be incorrect. In addition, AR2 probably did not have a good angle of view.

AR2's View

The best angle of view (i.e. the X-Factor) is seen from this following dynamic frame:

Looking at this shocking challenge, I suspect there will be a diverse range of opinions.
In one corner, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez defends his 21-year-old player:
Remember it's Callum's full debut in the Premier League. I haven't seen the replay, I believe that he touches the ball and then it's a bad challenge, but it's nothing malicious, he's not that sort of boy.

I can't really comment too much because I haven't seen the action but I can guarantee that Callum McManaman is a young man full of talent and in his debut probably showed the enthusiasm that you expect, but he's not a malicious player.

In the other corner, ex-Referee Graham Poll believes it to be serious foul play:
[McManaman's] straight-legged lunge over the top of the ball, with his studs up, caused his opponent to be stretchered off.

So, was McManaman's shocking challenge mistimed or malicious !!??

Friday 15 March 2013

EAR Ache

The following incident occurred during the Europa League Round of 16 2nd leg match between Chelsea and Steaua Bucharest on Thursday 14 March 2013. The match finished 3—1, with Chelsea winning 3—2 on aggregate. There were 4 YCs.

In 73', Fernando Torres (blue 9) is tripped in the PA by defender Szukala (red 4) right in front of EAR1 Antony Gautier. Szukala has slid in and cannot control the momentum of his body and therefore clips Torres, who goes down. Referee Stéphane Lannoy gives nothing and EAR1 does not assist.

This blog reiterates that additional assistant referees or EARs are ineffective. Uefa's Michel Platini, via Pierluigi Collina, continues to advocate the use of EARs. The evidence is, and has been, mounting against the beneficial presence of EARs despite Collina's cherrypicking.

Similarly in the Champions League Round of 16 2nd leg match between Manchester United and Real Madrid on Tuesday 5 March 2013, there were several incidents where the EARs could have helped the Referee … but again the EARs proved ineffective.

The Europa League match officials were:
Referee    Stéphane Lannoy (FRA)
Assistant referees    Frédéric Cano (FRA), Michael Annonier (FRA)
Fourth official    Eric Dansault (FRA)
Additional assistant referees    Antony Gautier (FRA), Ruddy Buquet (FRA)


The following incident occurred during the EPL match between Aston Villa and Liverpool on Sunday 31 March 2013. The match finished 1—2.

Referee Lee Mason—without any help from EARs—correctly awards a penalty for a foul on Liverpool's Luis Suarez (black 7) in the penalty area.

Aston Villa's Nathan Baker (claret 32) lunges in. Pics courtesy Sky Sports.

The foul inside the PA is almost exactly the same as that experienced by Fernando Torres (above) … the only difference is that Torres did not benefit from the added presence of an EAR or from the "competence" of the Referee (Lannoy).

Monday 4 March 2013

Shinpads Guard Against Stupidity From Others

The following observation occurred during the UCL Round of 16 first-leg match between Celtic and Juventus on Tuesday 12 February 2013. The match finished 0—3; there were 6YCs.

Juventus player Martín Cáceres (black #4) and his pithy pathetic shinpads

Related Posts
Shinguards Should Protect Properly
EARs Ineffective Again

Related News
Ronaldinho survives two-footed horror tackle (The Telegraph; Daily Mail)

Arsenal Sarandi player Diego Braghieri lunges at Atletico Mineiro's Ronaldinho (YouTube link)

The match referee only saw fit to award a penalty to Atletico Mineiro ... and nothing else. Does anyone know whether Arsenal Sarandi player Diego Braghieri received any retrospective sanction for his two-footed lunge at Ronaldinho?