Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Friday | November 30, 2012
Home : Commentary
Make all sports rules specific
Orville Higgins
By Orville Higgins

Not many people will agree with me on this one, but I find the one-match ban imposed on Brazilian Luiz Adriano by UEFA to be out of place. He was given that punishment for unsportsmanlike behaviour during the now-infamous Champions League match against Nordsjaelland last week, while playing for Shakhtar Donetsk.

The controversy started after play was restarted with an uncontested drop ball following treatment on an injured Nordsjaelland player. Nordsjaelland were in possession of the ball prior to the injury, and Shakhtar midfielder Willian, as is the custom in cases like that, attempted to return the ball to the Nordsjaelland defence when Adriano pounced on the pass, beat an astonished goalkeeper and finished into an empty net. The Nordsjaelland players were rightly upset.

Adriano's action was strange, unacceptable even, but there should have been no ban. His action was against the spirit and traditions of the game, no two ways about that, but the fact is that he broke no specific law. The fact that the referee had to award the goal means that not only was the goal legitimate, but that Adriano was well within his 'right' to do what he did.

The rules of football should be explicitly written so that the referee, in these cases, have the power to stop the striker who decides to latch on to a ball passed back by his teammate to the opposing team to restart the game. One blast of his whistle should have prevented Adriano getting away. Even if the referee decides not to stop him (because he may not know what his intention is), the goal should never have been allowed.

The game in question ended 5-2 in Shakhtar's favour, and therefore the controversial goal, thankfully, didn't really decide the game. Think, however, if something similar were to happen at a huge game, with far greater importance, say, the Champions League final, or worse, the World Cup Finals. The goal would stand, and if it's the only goal, a trophy could be won or lost. There would be mayhem, and the reverberations would last until eternity.

IT COULD BE WORSE

All that would happen because one side stopped playing, expecting the fellow on the other side to be a gentleman. The fellow refuses to be sportsmanlike, and with a huge game at stake, he is prepared to risk a one-match ban for unsportsmanlike conduct in order to win. To that player, his one-match ban might seem a small price to pay to land, say, a World Cup trophy, and if you really think about it, it is reasonable to assume that others, in the future, might do the same thing. FIFA should not take that risk. Assuming that all people will have the same integrity is a huge mistake, which is why they have prisons. A football game should never be decided like that.

The rules must be changed. You can't reward a player by giving him a goal after he sneaks away with a ball intended for his opponent, and then punish the player for that same goal. That is a classic case of paradox. If the goal stands, he shouldn't be banned.

Too much assumed

Yes, Adriano's behaviour was unsportsmanlike, but a litany of other things happen on a football field which show players were unsportsmanlike. The player who (given a free kick) moves the ball closer to his opponents' goal when the ref isn't looking is being unsportsmanlike. The keeper who moves deliberately off his line during a penalty is being unsportsmanlike. These infringements, however, never merit any ban, so the unsportsmanlike punishment is being selectively applied.

In cricket, it is considered unsportsmanlike for the fieldsman to appeal when the batsman throws the ball to him after playing it, even though handling of the ball is a legitimate mode of dismissal. If the fielder appeals after being handed the ball, forcing the umpire to give the batsman out, the fielder would have broken one of the game's most sacred traditions, but could you then ban the fielder? Clearly, no.

The act of not walking after edging the ball is considered unsportsmanlike, but could you ban the batsman who chooses not to? Again, no! Football needs to wake up. You punish a breach of law, you can't punish a breach of morality.

KLAS's Orville Higgins is a sportscaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

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