Johannesburg - The disgraceful and thuggish behaviour by Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon on Wednesday night is something that the football governing bodies need to look at. They also need to take stern disciplinary action against all perpetrators of such hooliganism against officials and deal with them sternly.
A message needs to be sent out to all that such behaviour will not be tolerated and that any player, substitute, coach, manager or club official who engages in this type of behaviour will face the full rigor of the law if found to be in breach of it.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the Uefa Champions League quarter-final second-leg game between Real Madrid and Juventus at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid.
The clash of these two giants of European football was always going to be a humdinger. Both teams contested the final last year, and Real have won the tournament four out of the past five times.
The first leg was 3-0 to Real, meaning they could afford to lose 2–0 at home and still progress, but that’s not what happened.
Juventus came to Spain like a team possessed and managed to replicate Real’s score in Turin, meaning the sides were level 3-3 into the referee’s optional time.
With less than one minute to go, referee Michael Oliver of England correctly awarded a penalty to Real and then all hell broke loose.
When the pushing and shoving was eventually brought under control, the much-decorated Buffon was red carded and, in my opinion, rightly so.
He pushed and buffeted the referee while screaming in his face, leaving Oliver with only one option – produce a red card.
Some commentators have said that the ref could have, and perhaps should have, been a little more lenient since it was the end of the 40-year-old keeper’s career.
Let me say here and now that it is not an opinion I share, nor should any referee. What the player did was unacceptable and should not be condoned for any reason whatsoever.
Referees are not there to make decisions based on a player’s fame, experience, standing in the community or any other contribution made to the game.
I repeat my long-held belief that the ritual shaking of hands before the game is nonsense and an exercise in hypocrisy of the highest order.
That sentiment was at its truest during this game.
Buffon wasn’t alone in harassing the referee, as his team-mates also played their part.
The powers that be are quick to look at rescinding yellow and red cards when it suits them, but damn slow to come out in support of the unfortunate refs and their assistants.
Recruiting match officials is an ongoing struggle, and this kind of behaviour, especially at lower levels of the game where there is no protection, makes it more difficult.
Referees are human and have normal daily lives like everyone else. They have partners and families who depend on them to provide a living and a home. At lower levels, doing a thankless job for little or no financial gain puts enormous pressure on them. When the support that is required from the top doesn’t come, it becomes an impossible task for recruiters.
Referee Oliver was correct in issuing the red card. My only complaint against him was that he should have ordered a retake of the penalty because, from what I could see, players from both teams were inside the penalty area before the kick was taken. The law stipulates that a penalty kick has to be retaken when something like that happens.
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