Antoinette Muller

What if Suarez did it?

2013-10-04 17:30
Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
Let’s clear the air quickly.

Luis Suarez can be a little weasel. Some of his behaviour on the pitch has been abhorrent to put it mildly.

Just a few days ago, Fernando Torres did something quite despicable himself. 

During Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Spurs, the Spaniard had a good claw at  Jan Vertonghen’s face.

Whatever Vertonghen might have done to be scratched like girl-fight on a school playground is somewhat irrelevant. What is massively important is that Torres got away with what he did, twice.

Firstly, the big and dusty rule book says Torres had to be sent off.

Hands on the face? On your bike.

Secondly, the FA launched an inquiry into the incident and Torres got off scot-free.

An inquiry was launched after the match - in which Torres was eventually sent off.

A violent conduct charge was opened against Torres and it was up to the FA to do something.

They didn’t.

How hard can it be to dish out punishment in the modern age and how incompetent must you be if you fail to do so in a case like this?

All the FA would have needed to do to see that the crime was befitting of a harsher punishment was do a quick Youtube search.

Instead, they gathered statements. 

This forms part of a new process by the FA for retrospective sanctions.

A three-man panel of former referees are permitted to review incidents and decide if a charge is in order if the officials were unable to witness the offence, but only if the FA think it’s worth it.

The referee said that he witnessed “the coming together of the two players, albeit not in its entirety". 

Try to comprehend that for a second, no further action can be taken because the incident was only partially seen by the referee.

Surely that should be the exact reason to refer the incident for further investigation?

Not quite.

This scheme, which is being piloted this season, has replaced the old one.

The previous system allowed action to be taken if a match official reviewed footage after the game and admitted that a player would have been sent off had he seen the misconduct in full view. 

Both systems say that no further action would be taken unless there are "exceptional circumstances".

Torres was thought to be not exceptional, which is why he got off.

The result sends a very dangerous message and proves that the FA are still getting their implementation of disciplinary action wrong.  Even Chelsea themselves would have accepted a three-match ban, if that were to be dished out.

Maybe Torres convinced everyone that it can't be violent or unbecoming because that's just how people greet each other in Spain. Or maybe the FA are spineless and do nothing more than encourage the soap opera of modern football.

It also begs the question: what would have happened if somebody else did something similar?  

Do players’ reputations precede them? If somebody with a shaky past like Suarez had done something similar, you can bet your bottom dollar he’d have been sent off straight away, like Torres should have been.

Perhaps the FA would have considered somebody like Suarez or Ryan Shawcross  or even Eden Hazard following his ball-boy incident last year as  "exceptional circumstances".

Had it been somebody who had sinned in the past, perhaps the matter would have been referred and the moral police, on their mounted high horses, would have been out in full patrol over what a disgrace he is to the modern game.

Torres received five yellow cards last season and one red, he certainly can’t be classed as a "dirty" player, but why does there need to be “exceptional circumstances” for a player’s misconducted to be cited?

There is no consistency.

Football obviously needs a martyr, a villain. Unfortunately for Suarez and a few others, they have landed that role without even auditioning for it. 

It gives the FA the licence to be slack, lazy and generally incompetent over most other matters.

If they nail a few "bad guys" once in a while and make an example out of them, perhaps they think they can get away with being ineffective in other circumstances.
Although ill-discipline and misconduct on the pitch is nothing now, it’s becoming an ugly blotch on the modern game. Torres isn’t alone in his sins.

Players who dive in a desperate attempt to win penalties, players who swear at the ref or even players who protest so much that a ref changes his mind all play a part in the snowballing disgrace of the modern-day soap opera.

Football is a beautiful game, the elite leagues of the world are enchanting, entertaining and we’re living an era with a wealth of extraordinary players. 

Yet, those who have the power do change the  little things seemingly can’t be bothered.

It won’t affect the game in the long run, but it doesn’t do much to breed confidence in the authorities abilities to handle bigger issues when they arise.

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

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