The 13th of January 2013 may well go down as the day when tackling is finished in football. Yesterday in the match between Arsenal and Manchester City, we saw Vincent Kompany make a perfectly timed challenge on Jack Wilshere, winning the ball with what many people would call a perfectly timed tackle. But there was one man in the ground who disagreed, and his name was referee Mike Dean. Within 5 seconds Dean had whipped out his red card for the second time in the game and dismissed the Manchester City captain.
I sat watching my television shocked at how that decision could be made. Replays only confirmed that the challenge was perfectly timed, and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on Kompany’s part. In the FA’s rules when it comes to tackles, it states that for a foul to be deemed worthy of a red card, the challenge has to be out of the players control (therefore both feet leaving the ground) and late on the player being challenged. If that was either one of those, then I do fear for the future of football.
If that red card isn’t rescinded, it would be a travesty. An absolutely travesty. They say that tackling is an art, and that tackle was great to watch in full speed, simply down to how successful it was. It is completely unfair for a player to be red carded for a perfectly timed challenge. Ok, maybe the player may have felt a bit of force in the tackle, but I’m sorry you have to realise that football is a contact sport, deal with it.
In my many years going to watch football live, one thing that any fan will tell you, is that we love to see great tackles. These are the things which can lift a crowd and spur a team on. I can’t remember the amount of times over the year when the crowd has brought a positive reaction all from a tackle. If the referees say that these sort of tackles are too dangerous and have no place in the game, we may as well stop watching.
We love the game of football (soccer if reading from across the pond) because of the physical nature and the competitive spirit it’s played in. If we wanted to watch non contact sport where you can’t touch a player, we’d watch netball! But now we have players being booked and sent off for the most ridiculous of ‘offences’.
I’ve said for many years that I feared that football was becoming a non contact sport, and have said it to everyone who I talk to about how much the game has changed in the past 20 years. Yesterday only confirmed by greatest fear. If a tackle is late, flying off the ground with 2 feet, then by all means I can understand why this would be deemed a red card. Over the past few years we’ve seen so many bad leg breaks in the Premier League itself, with the injuries suffered by Eduardo, Aaron Ramsey & Ben Arfa. So you can understand why the league is keen to stamp out two footed challenges. But yesterday’s tackle certainly wasn’t a red card, and any football fan will tell you that.
In recent seasons I’ve noticed just how European the Premier League has become, not only in style but the way the players react to fouls and also the referees. Beforehand, referees would wave on for a high foot, which was considered just a European thing. But now this has creeped into the game in England. The fact is that the league is becoming much softer, and maybe this is coming from the increased influx of foreign players, or due to the fact that referees have been told to be more strict.
Whatever it is, all I know is that the beautiful game is being ruined. First we have the diving and over exaggeration of fouls (which I wrote about last month), which is a constant eye sore in the league. Now it seems we may be witnessing the death of the tackle. Roberto Mancini has already stated that the decision will be appealed, and rightfully so.
If you haven’t seen the challenge yet, go and watch it and decide for yourself whether it’s worthy of a red card. English football has changed a lot over recent years, but I know that fans will be agree that the league is becoming non contact, if we say red cards for challenges that 20 years ago would be considered acceptable. We await the results of the appeal, but once again a weekend goes by where we have another controversial decision made by a referee. I suppose it would be boring if nothing controversial happened, but let’s hope that common sense prevails on this one, and justice is served for Kompany.