Saturday, July 05, 2014

The World Cup: Fouls

In response to my blog on the World Cup, my sister (may her shadow never grow less) asked: “What about biting? You didn't address biting.” Well, wisdom suggests that I send her a smiley face and say nothing; but what’s the point of wisdom when discussing Association Football? 

I said in the blog I dislike fouls, and I did not like Suarez’s bite at all. Along with almost all soccer fans. But I must admit that it bothers me less than cynical kicks of the knee, which shorten a player’s career, or studs up slides designed to take out the attacking player and perhaps send him to the hospital. Biting offends us because it breaks the invisible barrier between persons and leaves the bitten feeling violated—somewhat the way we feel when someone breaks into our house and we come home to find the door hanging open. But in truth it does relatively little long-term physical damage. 

I remember a match in 2001 in which Roy Keane intentionally injured the Danish player Håland. You can see the tackle here. Keane was apparently taking revenge for an incident three and a half years earlier, in which Håland had accused Keane of faking an injury. Whatever happened between them, such actions seem far worse to me than what Suarez did. The ban on Suarez makes sense to me. The ban on Keane was three games at the time and five more later when he admitted the act was premeditated, but his action seems far worse to me than the biting. 

Many have suggested that Suarez needs the help of a therapist. They may well be right. It makes sense to me at least. But I see so many tackles with studs up, and so many hard jumps into a player (such as the one that put Neymar out of the cup), and so many intentional kicks of the best attacking players (such as Brazil’s defense against Rodriguez) that I don’t understand FIFA’s failure to sanction them equally severely. 

So there you have my thoughts, sister mine. Lois tells me that the world would be a better place if I could run everything, with the appropriate amount of sarcasm in her voice. She is right of course; I would not do nearly as well as the officials have. I would add just one thing: use instant replay with another official monitoring the game. For egregious fouls that the ref misses (the game is so fast), the replay official could notify the referee at any time by radio signal to his earphone that the offending player should be sanctioned at the next break in play. That would have caught Suarez’s bite, and Robbens’ dive, and the Colombian defender's jump into Neymar, and the Brazilian players' kicks of Rodriguez, and so on. When fouling costs the team, the players will stop fouling. Not before.


KGMom said...

See, I thought that biting was outside the pale of "normal" fouls--and I suspect that is because it crosses some unwritten human taboo. Perhaps too close to cannibalism...hence the taboo.
As for instant replay--oh, I so totally agree. The play-acting (poorly done, I might add) is infuriating to me. So instant replay which would catch missed fouls and timely punish them, as well as ignore phonied up "fouls" and not reward them.

Climenheise said...

I would add that much of the "acting" is not really acting. If you have ever had someone step on your foot, you know it hurts! It doesn't take much to trip someone running in front of you -- the merest flick of a heel. American Football fans should consider what their game would look like if the players wore as little padding as rugby players do. Rugby! There's a game in which ears are often bitten in the scrum. I heard of an English player who apologized to a French opponent after the game for biting him. The French player replied, "Why apologize? I was biting too!"