Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday August 28 2009
You will doubtless have heard by now of UEFA`s decision to charge Eduardo for his clear dive in the Celtic match on Wednesday night. The charge will likely lead to a two match suspension. On one hand, on straightforward moral grounds, you could very well argue that Eduardo is getting exactly what he deserves. He cheated, plain and simple. People can argue about semantics and make excuses all they like, but the fact is Eduardo violated the spirit of the game to gain an unfair advantage- that is not a point that can be reasonably deconstructed in my eyes. However, UEFA have now given themselves an enormous problem with this action- the lid has been jimmied off the tin and the worms are crawling everywhere.
The first anomaly of the retroactive charge is the first question UEFA will have to answer. Namely, had Eduardo been caught diving by the referee (and the referee really ought to have seen it as an act of simulation, it was a poorly executed belly flop and the referee`s position was excellent), he would have been yellow carded- ergo no ban would have been awarded. So UEFA have to clarify once and for all what the sanction is for diving- is it a yellow or a red card? No governing body of any repute- nor UEFA for that matter- can shift the goalposts at will, the law has to be codified and closed to vague interpretation. UEFA claim the charge is based on Article 10, paragraph 1c of the UEFA disciplinary regulations (misconduct of players) which states: 'Players may be suspended for two competition matches, or for a specified period, for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision or supporting his error of judgment and thereby causing him to make an incorrect decision.' So are we to expect that players will now be awarded two match suspensions for sticking their arms in the air and claiming the ball has gone out for a corner when they know full well it is a goal kick? How about when a defender trips a player in the area and the referee does not award the penalty, will the defender be retrospectively banned for not picking the ball up, spotting it up and telling the referee, "No guv, got it wrong, I tripped him"? With Eduardo`s charge, UEFA are going to have to review incidents as seemingly trivial as these or else risk being a self confessed kangaroo court. That`s a lot of work they have served themselves up on a platter. Why, it`ll leave them almost no time for ostentatious, self important cup draws that drag on for three and a half days, no time to dream up increasingly spurious international tournaments and very little time for corporate back slapping as UEFA Executives sell their children`s kidney`s to Budweiser before then lecturing the football world about financial doping.
Charging Eduardo retrospectively also sets a precedent which they must follow up. But first they are going to have to clarify whether a referee`s decision is or is not final. It is a UEFA Directive that states that if the referee has seen an incident and adjudicated it, then the action cannot be reviewed. The referee saw the incident and adjudged that Eduardo had been fouled- so when did that directive change? UEFA will have to inform us. At this point I will plead with you not to become disentangled in my forest of sarcasm, I am not against divers being punished per se, but the question of how best to punish them is not an easy one to answer. Video evidence (surely it should be called DVD Evidence by now?) is all very well, but that leaves you with the very large conundrum to answer. Who decides which incidents are worthy of review? UEFA will have to elect a panel to pore over every single incident in every single match, or else the system will effectively become trial by media- a system that is not so much open to abuse as it is dependent on it. When Steven Gerrard took a quite blatant half pike in the Kop End penalty area against Marseilles last season, UEFA did not deem the incident worthy of a second look. This is because the media almost entirely ignored the incident- it suited their agenda to do so, so hell-bent are they on projecting the image that diving is an exclusively continental pursuit. Eduardo was perhaps unfortunate that he took his deplorable action in a prime time evening game, on free to air television when Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United were not playing. Basically, the hacks had pages to fill and the viewing public had bugger all else to do. Had our match taken place twenty four hours earlier, Eduardo`s act would have been buried amongst the hand wringing over the scenes at Upton Park on Tuesday evening. Being at the behest of the media in administering justice is akin to inviting a neo-Nazi to a Bar Mitzvah.
Of course the other, perhaps more minor point, is lodged comfortably in the grey area. What constitutes a dive? Is it if there is no contact? Minimal contact? Did Tony Hibbert dive at Turf Moor on Sunday? Or did he just cleverly leave his leg out and invite contact? Did Boruc not brush Eduardo`s ankle in the challenge on Wednesday night? Almost certainly enough to knock him over, but who judges how much contact exactly warrants the firmness to knock someone to the ground? It is possible that some times (and this is not true in Eduardo`s case I don`t think) you fall automatically when you anticipate contact, just as an involuntary action? A bullet has an insufficient surface area to knock a fully grown man to the ground, yet I`d bet money you`d fall down if you were shot today. (Try it for yourself, stand outside Lewisham Civic Centre for an hour or so after 11pm tonight, that should do it). Have you ever said "ouch" when hit on the arm, even though the amount of pain you felt at contact was insignificant? Simulation is not always a clear cut matter and if UEFA have set a precedent with this incident of charging everybody that they think has dived beyond a reasonable doubt (which they have to do to protect their legitimacy), then these grey areas are going to move out of the foggy mist and into the banner headlines more and more. I don`t plead for or feel any sympathy for Eduardo here; I just hope UEFA know what they are doing. I`ll be honest with you; I don`t think they`ve got a fucking clue.LD.
Date:Friday August 28 2009
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