If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen

Sunday Star-Times - - Sport - BILLY HAR­RIS

DOESN’T SEEM right, does it, when the bad guy gets off on a tech­ni­cal­ity even when ev­ery­one knows he done it?

Maybe he bashed up and robbed an old lady, but the video footage prov­ing it was him is in­ad­mis­si­ble be­cause the se­cu­rity cam­era was sup­posed to be pointed in the other di­rec­tion at the time so the crook goes free.

That’s what hap­pened last week. If you saw the in­ci­dent last sea­son you’ll never for­get it be­cause it’s among the worst tack­les ever seen on a foot­ball field with Waitakere’s nor­mally law-abid­ing Com­mins Me­napi nearly snap­ping Ricki van Stee­den of Auck­land City in two when he launched him­self hor­i­zon­tally, studs first, into Van Stee­den’s up­per shin.

He was rightly sent off, but when the ref saw the tackle again on the telly he up­graded the charge, re­sult­ing in Me­napi get­ting a six match ban, which was a step in the right di­rec­tion, but still too light.

But it’s not fair, said Me­napi’s peo­ple. If the game hadn’t been on TV, the ref wouldn’t have seen it again and his first call would have stood.

Tough. Some ten­nis games have com­put­erised line call­ing giz­mos, some don’t. Some league games have a man in the stand with a TV mon­i­tor, some don’t. Some swim­ming races have elec­tronic tim­ing, some have peo­ple lean­ing over the pool with stop­watches. If you’re play­ing se­ri­ous sport, there’s a chance you’re go­ing to en­joy, or suf­fer, the ben­e­fits of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. If you don’t like it, play so­cial sport.

Any­way, af­ter all the usual to­ing, fro­ing, lob­by­ing, le­gal talk­ing, clause-in­vok­ing and loophol­ing that’s be­come as im­por­tant to foot­ball clubs in this coun­try as scor­ing goals, the ban was cut to one match.

One match? De­spite what­ever it says on page 138, para­graph 4, sec­tion (f), sub­sec­tion III, Me­napi should have been banned for a sea­son and given a warn­ing that any sim­i­lar such as­saults would see him gone for good. And no amount of ver­bal gym­nas­tics will con­vince me oth­er­wise.

Speak­ing of dis­ci­pline, foot­ball in­tro­duced red and yel­low cards at the World Cup in 1970, but the sport lags be­hind other codes when it comes to on­field jus­tice.

Let’s say a team is cheat­ing all day. They pick up six yel­low cards for per­sis­tent foul­ing. How does that help their vic­tims? The team that ben­e­fits will be the one who plays the bad guys six weeks later, when the yel­low cards add up to a sus­pen­sion.

To en­sure jus­tice for the ag­grieved team, foot­ball should use the sin­bin favoured by other codes. Play­ers who’ll hap­pily take a yel­low card to stop a promis­ing at­tack will think twice if they get a yel­low AND 15 min­utes on the bench.

Would that be enough? Or would the Ar­genti­nas and Uruguays of the game, the teams for whom block­ing, hold­ing, and trip­ping come as nat­u­rally as breath­ing, keep do­ing it, tak­ing the sin­bins, and then de­fend­ing and time­wast­ing un­til they get their man back on?

In that case, foot­ball must bor­row from bas­ket­ball, which knows that the only way to beat the cheaters is via the score­board. In foot­ball, for ev­ery five fouls you com­mit, you should con­cede a penalty.

Rad­i­cal? Yes, but nec­es­sary, be­cause in the bat­tle be­tween good and evil for con­trol of Planet Foot­ball, the tossers are win­ning.

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