It’s time to throw book at the cheats

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - Chris Dunlavy

BUNGLING refs have hogged the head­lines in re­cent weeks, but with cheats like Fer­nando Forestieri try­ing to con them ev­ery five min­utes, what do you ex­pect? Let’s not mince words. When the Wat­ford striker col­lapsed un­der a non-ex­is­tent punch from Wolves’ Bakary Sako last week­end, he wasn’t ‘sim­u­lat­ing’ or ‘play-act­ing’. He was cheat­ing. His sole aim was to get a fel­low pro­fes­sional sent off.

Given that Sako didn’t even raise his arms, it is no sur­prise that his red card was re­scinded on ap­peal. Any­thing less would have been a dis­grace.

But that shouldn’t be the end of the mat­ter. Hav­ing cleared Sako, the FA must, by def­i­ni­tion, agree that Forestieri took a dive. So why is he be­ing al­lowed to get off scot free?

Had Sako’s dis­missal stood, the Malian would now be fac­ing a three­game ban for vi­o­lent con­duct. Forestieri knew that and, hav­ing achieved his goal of re­duc­ing Wolves’ num­bers, should have had the balls to ex­on­er­ate Sako af­ter the match.

Trans­fer

Call it naive, but if Jose Mour­inho can leap to the de­fence of Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, surely it wasn’t be­yond Forestieri to say ‘Sorry, I made a rash de­ci­sion, he never touched me’.

But he didn’t. He was happy to see Sako hit with a sus­pen­sion. So not only is Forestieri a cheat, he’s a dis­hon­ourable cheat.

Surely, then, the most fit­ting course of ac­tion would be to trans­fer Sako’s three-game ban to Forestieri?

The FA wouldn’t need to do any­thing rad­i­cal like in­vent new rules to ret­ro­spec­tively pun­ish divers. The leg­is­la­tion ex­ists. Just charge Forestieri with bring­ing the game into dis­re­pute, some­thing his histri­on­ics un­doubt­edly did.

There are many as­pects of games­man­ship that, while in­fu­ri­at­ing, will al­ways be im­pos­si­ble to pun­ish.

Pain is sub­jec­tive, and a player could eas­ily ar­gue that, to him, a kick in the shin is tan­ta­mount to child­birth.

Some­times, how­ever, there is no de­bate. Some­times a player cheats so bla­tantly that all doubt is re­moved.

Re­mem­ber Ri­valdo’s com­edy tum­ble at the 2002 World Cup? Frus­trated by the Brazil­ian’s time-wast­ing, Turkey’s Hakan Un­sal booted the ball at Ri­valdo. Though it clearly struck him on the thigh, Ri­valdo went down like he’d been tasered, some­how fool­ing the Korean ref into send­ing Un­sal off.

Like Forestieri, Ri­valdo knew ex­actly what he was do­ing. And like Forestieri, re­plays con­clu­sively proved that he cheated. In such cases, there is noth­ing to pre­vent ret­ro­spec­tive pun­ish­ment.

This is not just about an eye for eye. It is about wip­ing the prob­lem out at source. Thir­teen years on from Ri­valdo’s an­tics, there re­mains noth­ing to dis­cour­age Forestieri – or any­body else – from try­ing it on and hit­ting the deck.

If the ref buys it, job done. If he doesn’t, it’s a stern talk­ing to at best and a yel­low card at worst. That is no de­ter­rent what­so­ever. If the au­thor­i­ties re­ally want to help ref­er­ees, throw­ing the book at cheats like Forestieri would be a very sim­ple and very ef­fec­tive place to start.

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