De­ci­sive Oliver made the right call

CityPress - - Sport - Errol Sweeney sports@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @dr_er­rol or email the­hang­ing­

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 quar­ter­fi­nal 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. Happy whistling!

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