Red card for intent? No sir!

2013-03-07 13:11
Sport24 columnist Ant Sims (File)
Manchester United supporters are a prickly bunch. When one decision goes against them, heaven forbid on their own turf, and the said decision leads to their undoing, they flock together like a pack of rabid Liverpool supporters rushing to the defence of Luiz Suarez.

VIDEO: Nani's red card. Fair or foul?

There was more of that on Tuesday night when Nani was sent off in United’s Champions League fixture against Real Madrid. So much outrage that many people would swear it’s the card itself who dribbles the ball into the back of the net and helps a team over the line to clinch the win. The red card, some say, was so outrageously awful, that it ruined the whole entire football match and probably every other football match to come where somebody makes a decision where not everybody agrees with it. Despite Eboue previously receiving a red card for something similar at, you guessed it, Old Trafford, the plethora of anger was never ending.

UEFA insists it has "no problem" with the Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir and will wait until reports into his display from the referee's observer, Pierluigi Collina, and match delegate Rudolf Zavrl, both of whom were in attendance at Old Trafford.

Of course, as with all refereeing decisions, whatever UEFA says is rendered null and void and the arguments on social networks and on television channels immediately turned to “intent”. It’s an argument which often crops up whenever cards are handed out. Was there any intent from the player to injure his opponent, are the referees mind reader in order to establish intent? Did the player’s eyes glare with bubbling dislike for his opponent? Or did he just go Eric Cantona kinds of barking and have a good old whack at the opposition? Those are all things which supposedly indicate intent.

The only problem is, the FIFA rule book doesn’t actually mention intent anywhere anymore, not for fouls anyway. Way back in 1997, “intent” was discarded from the rule book like a manager at a Russian billionaire’s club. Intent is, of course, still there, but only when it comes to handball. Any other foul cannot be judged by intent. That is kicking, tripping, charging, striking, pushing and all other things that are involved in a contact sport are still there, but referees now have to judge whether fouls were reckless, careless, or whether it had any excessive force to it.

The referee obviously thought that Nani, known for crying mid-pitch, had used excessive force (which is defined as “far exceeding the necessary use of force” and “in danger of injuring his opponent”). Want to irk Manchester United supporters? Tell them that by process of elimination and by the basic definitions of the rulebook the referee probably got it right since there was a danger of Nani injuring his opponent, even if he had no idea where his opponent was.

To rub salt in their wounds, UEFA has also charged Manchester United after Alex Ferguson failed to attended the press conference after his side went crashing out and Nani will face a minimum of one-match ban while Rio Ferdinand could also face charges for sarcastically applauding the referee at the end of the match.

A UEFA statement said: "UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Manchester United FC for (the) red card of Nani (and) post-match media obligations not fulfilled (under) III 2.6 and 2.7 of the competition regulations. The case will be dealt with by the UEFA control and disciplinary body on Thursday, March 21.

When it rains, it pours and sometimes not even the home-advantage at Old Trafford can save you. Whether United were outplayed or not is debatable. Neither side was great on the night, but Real Madrid were perhaps just a little bit better than not great.

After taking the lead, the odds were always going to be against United, being forced to defend while Real Madrid had the freedom to play like they had nothing to lose.

What cannot be argued, though, is that after Nani’s sending off, United looked like they had given up. The arrogance that a questionable decision is the decider of your fate is not only laughable, but also somewhat pathetic. For a club of the calibre of United, it’s a great pity that instead of overcoming the odds, they succumbed to it and if there was anything which ruined the game on Tuesday night, it’s that, not a plausible red card.

Ant Sims is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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