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Dealing with dangerous tackles, this is how it should be done

By Walter Broeckx

One of our readers gave me a link to http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/mls-suspends-mullan-additional-nine-games and ask me to give my comment.

And it couldn’t come on a better time than this week. Because on Sunday we have seen what good a player Aaron Ramsey was and still looks to be. Last season in the cold winter months he slowly came  in the team.  And the more he played the better he became. He was making his breakthrough so it looked.

But then he crossed the path of Shawcross who made another breakthrough. A tackle that went through the bones in Ramsey’s leg. We heard all kind of sick excuses about what a nice friendly little boy that Shawcross was.  Wenger and Ramsey got the full blame because Wenger was unhappy with another of his players being his leg broken. And Ramsey was to blame because he was too quick for the nice lad that Shawcross was.  It was all Arsenal’s fault and the leg breaker got a call up for the English team just a few hours later.

Oh and he got a ban. Of 3 weeks. We all know that it took Ramsey more than 1 year to get even close to the level he had before. That is 52 weeks. Just let this sink in once again 3 weeks suspension against 52 weeks of pain, operation, recovery, more pain to come back and hard work. And still not sure of knowing you will be able to come back completely.

But now in the Major League Soccer in the USA they have shown how to deal with such things. As a few days ago   Brian Mullan from Colorado Rapids broke the leg of Steve Zakuani a player from the Seattle Sounders. Mullan was angry because his team didn’t get a free kick and to compensate this he came in with a dangerous tackle and broke his opponents leg.

But unlike the FA the MLS decided to act. In fact they had spoken about this before the start of the season.  According to a spokesman the MLS has worked with all its players, coaches, referees and the two federations to develop, illustrate and discuss several key points of emphasis. And one of those points of emphasis is to protect the safety of the player on the ball and reduce or eliminate reckless and violent tackles.  And Mullan’s tackle was the type of play they wanted to eliminate from the game.

So instead of the 3 weeks ban he would have got in England the MLS decided to give Mullan a ban of 9 games and an extra one for the red card itself. Hello FA are you still reading? And do you still feel you are doing a job? Not even to mention a good job. NO, there is no comparison between what you do to protect your players and to what the MLS is doing to protect their players.

Oh, some of you might say: Well just another example of those Americans who know nothing about football and how it should be played.  So yes the USA might not have the biggest record when it comes to football. But let us take a look at how other leagues deal with violent tackles.

In Belgium we had Witsel who broke the leg of the Polish international Wasilewski and how got a punishment of 10 games which was reduced to 8 games after an appeal.  So it can be done but the Football federation must have the guts to act.

In the USA the MLS has clearly shown that when they speak about protecting their players they mean business.  In Belgium the KBVB has acted and has given a punishment that was very long compared to other countries.

So it is up to each Football Federation to ask the question: are we going to protect our players or are we going to let tugs run the show? In the MLS and the KBVB they have chosen the way of given severe punishment to the leg breakers.

In the MLS the committee gave as a reason: The Committee felt the egregious nature of the foul and the severity of the injury warranted the discipline issued,” executive vice president of competition and game operations Nelson Rodriguez said in a statement. “The Committee believes the challenge showed an utter disregard for Zakuani’s safety.

“In making this decision, the Committee took several factors into account: the timing of the challenge, the location on the field, the moments immediately before the challenge where it is clear that Mullan is frustrated and the severity of Zakuani’s injury”

And then we come back to Shawcross and his leg breaking tackle. Shawcross showed also an utter disregard for Ramsey’s safety. And if you look at the other factors:

–          the timing and the location on the field: A tackle in the Arsenal half when nothing was going on really so no need to come in flying like that.

–          The severity of Ramsey’s injury: a double fracture is rather severe for a football player.

So the FA could and should have acted then. And then maybe Benzema wouldn’t have his leg broken this season. Maybe Diaby wouldn’t have been kicked 2 times off the field resulting in a serious injury and a lengthy spell on the sidelines. But the FA chose the side of the leg breakers. They just gave the usual suspension as they do for someone who gives a push on another player.

And for those who might say: well sometimes you are unlucky to go in a challenge and to break another player his leg. Well yes this could be the case. But when you do a tackle you know what you are doing. When you throw yourself to the man as a professional football player you know what you are doing.

Let me compare it to this as someone did on the site. If you drive through a red light you get a fine. But if you drive through a red light and hit another person you will not just get a fine. No you will be send to jail. Just as a professional football players knows when he starts a possible dangerous tackle it is just the same for any driver who has a driver license. He knows he cannot drive through a red light so he has no excuse if afterwards he injures someone.

Let us just protect the players from the tugs. Let us ban the tugs and get rid of them so we can enjoy watching football as it should be played. With skill, with technical ability and yes with some good defending and some tackles. But not with careless and dangerous tackles. They should be banned and be banned for good.

37 comments to Dealing with dangerous tackles, this is how it should be done

  • Mandy Dodd

    Something certainly needs to be done. Our league seems to be lagging behind Europe in these issues. Wenger seems to have tried to build a team like Barca, expecting the same sort of protection Barca clearly get however instead we are targeted. He seems to have overestimated the will to change things here. The teams who play this anti football – their managers all seem to back Fergie at every opportunity, maybe in turn Fergie arranges protestion for some of these teams through his influence with the PGMOL /FA /EPL so they carry on, even though refs are told to crack down on this sort of thing, as in Europe, by and large they do

  • Mandy Dodd

    ^ protection

  • oppol

    The only way for FA to start acting is when Arsenal players started breaking opponent’s legs.

  • ak47

    its just another arm of the beast. certain players like paul the red nose hitman scholes and rio the neanderthal ferdinand have licence to change games through violence if they want. and theres enough footage to prove this im sure.

    for me the mls are leading the way but not really. 3 or 9 game ban makes no difference even if they werent picking up their wages. there should be a court case with video evidence in the way of gbh and if it was genuinely a mistake then you miss half the season. if it was reckless then u dont come back until the injured comes back and even serve a sentence for gbh. how else will it stop?

    its like saying to someone. if you punch me in the face ill shout at you. no one likes to get shouted at. will they think twice about punching you in the face? doubt it.

  • Dave Right

    For those that need a reminder of why Gooners are still angry …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9FJKunkmKQ

    If you have seen Shawcross playing recently it is apparent that he learned nothing by the by the Ramsey tackle and is still going in on opponents with reckless scything challenges.

  • Johnny Deigh

    The FA’s lack of action in these types of cases leaves them open to legal action the next time it happens. I know Marseille threatened suit after their on-loan to Newcastle player, Ben Arfa, got his leg snapped by De Jong.

  • Adam

    Nothing will be done until someone like Rooney gets his leg broken in a bad tackle by a dirty foreigner just before a World Cup or European Championship. Sky will replay the incident one million times, Fergie will moan and Steve Curry will condemn all foreigners in our league. His one hundred chins will wobble as he tells us that foul play and diving was never a problem in this country until the dastardly foreigners came. The football in authorities will then take action.

  • Menace

    Walter the word is THUGS not tugs. It is not sufficient to describe the evil that is physical brutality.

    The effect on the FA is sweet FA. They ignore all semblance of sense and insist on safeguarding the ‘robust’ tackle which is diplomacy for brutal, leg breaking, bone breaking tackle.

  • walter

    Menace,
    we should remove the thugs with a tug from our fields… oooooops, what a mistake to make…. Just failed my English test I think. But thanks for pointing it out as now I will not make the same mistake again. I hope.

  • walter

    Ak47, yes I partially agree. The criminals will do the same even after 9 games ban.
    But one can only hope that clubs who have to pay such thugs for a few months without them being able to play will throw them out of their team.

    Mind you I wouldn’t say no to bans of even more than 9 games.

  • Stuart

    Walter & Ak47

    Repeat offenders will always be around, just like in the criminal world, no matter what the punishment is, when released there are some who will just re-offend, it’s how they get by!
    If the footballing authorities really considered this a high priority and wanted this stamped out you could go even further and remove persistent offenders from the game altogether..Permanently!! I’m sure if I were to go and hit one of my compettitors I would get arrested & possibly charged, why not these people???

  • vretou

    arsenal need to hammer stoke to put the likes of shawcross2bed

  • Sagalout

    There is a really easy why to stop these tackles;
    If in tackling a player & injuring him resulting in the injured player sustaining serious injury such as a break. then the player committing the offence does not play till the injured player is fit again. If the tackle is bad enough to prevent the player resuming his career then the offending player is out for a season. Fines no longer work they earn to much.
    We should also ‘sight’ players who the ref misses’.

  • Naren

    Walter
    The traffic light analogy was just brilliant.Too good.
    PS-Will the FA do anything in the foreseeable future?No.

  • ak47

    not sure about clubs wanting to throw them out because manure insist on keeping hargreaves for some reason. and stu i agree, maybe a three strike rule? sadly it comes back to the refs and we all know about them.

  • Stroller

    There is a cultural acceptance in the game here that accommodates a tackle where the perpetrator is not in control of his motion and potentially could cause injury to an opponent. Referees usually fail to act on them unless they are blatantly obvious and commentators invariably excuse them as ‘genuine attempts to get the ball’ regardless of how reckless they are, and will scrutinse slow motion replays to justify this by looking for the slightest touch on the ball.

  • Dark Prince

    As i’ve said many times earlier, the FA wont take any action unless the victim is an english international.

  • Davi

    I think shawcross’ one was a little different to the witsel tackle or (I presume) the MLS one. It wasn’t out of frustration or aggression; as ramsey said himself, ryan was trying to make a tactical foul, and got it horribly wrong. I don’t agree that he deserved a long ban for what he did.
    What I do think is wrong is that his supporters in the media and managers from other clubs have removed shawcross from any blame whatsoever. As a result of all this “support” shawcross feels no guilt for what he did anymore and sees no reason to change his game. All I think is really necessary is a sincere apology and recognition of the fact that breaking a person’s leg in a game is a big deal, and isn’t something to just brush aside. He should just say publicly that went in with too much force and caught ramsey too high up on the leg, and that he needs to be more careful with his tackling.
    Far worse than the shawcross incident (in terms of the actions of the players, rather than the outcomes) was the rooney elbowing incident, and when evans broke one of drogbas ribs in a game. Those WERE deliberate acts which should be quite separate from football and a 6-month ban would not be excessive for either of those acts.

  • Davi

    @Stroller – completely agree! The culture of football in this country is quite barbaric to be honest.

  • Dark Prince

    Walter- Adding to what you have written, i can also remember the Spanish FA banning a player earlier in this season for a very bad tackle on Messi. Messi didn’t break his leg but the player was suspended for another 2 matches. Now that only shows how the Spanish FA protects their most valuable asset whereas English FA is jus not concerned enough.

  • marcus

    I think you mean Ben Arfa had his leg broken by de Jong, not Benzema – who’s fine.

    BTW, Mullan was also given a fine of $5250 – small but it’s in addition to the 10-game ban. Mullan’s tackle was similar to Shawcross in that he threw his body out of control at full speed and force recklessly.

  • andy bishop

    I agree… the punishments never fit the crime. Brutal over the ball tackling…sorry mistimed for the benefit of those with their heads in the sand…has no place in the game. Apart from dangerous it is cheating…sorry professional for the benefit etc etc…. The powers that be have abdicated their responsibilities to clean up the game over a number of years now. Every player knows when another professional has gone over the top deliberately… the only people that seem not to know are the referees and the powers that be. The consequences of this is we now have deliberate diving, theatrical pleading with officials and managers who see nothing. Whatever happened to football?

  • Gooner80

    This is just the way it is in england, the england team is indicative of how our game is, as the focus is on tackling not technical ability, having played to a fairly high level I was always encouraged to crunch people, you would have to assault someone to get a red card and often in a season it was rare to see a yellow. if someone did a skillful trick past you, you would be berated to not let that happen again. there is so many unwritten rules in football, it is going to take a van basten like injury to cause reform

  • Marcus

    Look, the day Paul Scholes went into Reyes , and Reyes leg visible flexed, and the referee was under instructions not to do anything was the day a black leaf was turned in the annals of the FA

    to be honest I sometimes wish that little shits like Scholes and Shawcross would mutually self-destruct…

  • bjtgooner

    Timely post.

    Part of the problem is that some clubs in the EPL try to use agression and hostility to make up for a lack of ability. In those clubs it seems to be acceptable for players to deliberately use excessive force or barely concealed violence to intimidate the opposition. Over time this becomes the team culture and passes for normality. The type of fouls committed are repeated throughout each match and are designed to hurt.

    Players from other clubs will also commit fouls, but this will be by accident or over enthusiasm. Such fouls are not designed to cause harm.

    The FA having been useless in doing anything positive to reduce agressive tackles could by default be seen to condone such behaviour. Their inertia could eventually leave them open to litigation.

    Regarding Shawcross, I can’t remember all the details, but I believe he did break the leg of another victim about a year or so earlier, if correct the FA have no excuse for not taking severe action against him and also his club.

  • Yommex

    My solutions to the above scenario are simple.
    1. The culprit/assailant should be kept away from the game for as long as it takes the victim to recuperate from the injury.
    2. The club of the culprit/assailant should be responsible for the salary of the victim for the duration of his recovery up until he features again for his club in a competitive match.

    If these two are implemented, you can be sure that there will not be such dangerous tackles again in the game. A player would rather allow the opponent to score than to ‘mistakenly’ break his leg as the punishment is not light.

  • Davi

    @bjtgunner – shawcross broke a bone in adebayor’s foot (playing for arsenal at the time) while ade was off the pitch and the ball was out of play. I think you are referring to another incident, but that was clearly something that should really have been punished more severely. I don’t think he was even booked for that “tackle”, but I can’t remember to be honest.
    The worst offender in the league for me is paul robinson. He was highlighted earlier in the season for his lunge on diaby, but he tried that in each of the two games with bolton in the previous season against fabregas. Both times it was when he had no chance of winning the ball and clearly caused by frustration, and he could have done serious damage to our captain, and more serious damage to diaby for that matter. He is the only player in the league who I am 100% sure goes out to injure other players on a consistent basis. There are a few candidates in the Utd team as well actually.

  • bjtgooner

    @Davi

    Thanks for the info.

  • walter

    Shawcross has had another 2 red cards this season. He clearly is not that kind of player….

  • RedGooner

    Walter nice article. I agree with Adam and DarkPrince.
    I think until one of Englands golden children get their legs snapped in two nothing will change.
    It is sad and embarassing that we cant ensure the penalty fits the crime.

  • Anne

    @Mandy Dodd:

    You use Barcelona as an example of how Europe protects players better than the EPL. But that certainly wasn’t the case in the 2 legs of the CL semi-final against Madrid. A lot has been made of Barcelona’s theatrics over the 2 legs, but nobody seems to mention the fact that Madrid was trying to kick them off the pitch at the time, and was only getting called for about half of the fouls they were committing.

    @Andy Bishop:

    This ties in with your point that “deliberate diving, and theatrical pleading with officials” is actually a consequence (in many cases) of referees failing to adequately protect players. What good is it to universally condemn the symptom, if you’re not going to address the cause?

    During the Barca-Madrid 1st leg, Marcelo went up for a header and came down with his studs directly onto Pedro’s recently injured knee. Pedro went off injured, and Marcelo wasn’t punished at all. It’s hardly even been mentioned.

    And Dani Alves has been widely condemned for going down theatrically after a Pepe challenge (which earned Pepe a red card), but nobody has mentioned the fact that Pepe went in on him with a potentially leg-breaking tackle. Late, high, studs up, and aimed directly at Alves’ shin bone. You can actually see him twisting his ankle in the air and still trying to catch Alves w/ his studs as Alves is jumping out of the way.

    And that wasn’t an isolated incident for Pepe on the evening, either. The sad fact is, if Alves hadn’t gone down the way he did, Pepe probably wouldn’t have been punished for that one either. And although Alves has been crucified in the media as a “cheater” for diving, Pepe has been treated as some sort of innocent victim. Are you not also a “cheater” if you try to injure another player?

    Anyway, I’m not so sure Europe is really all that much ahead of England on this issue. With the Madrid tie as a precedent, I hate to think what ManU is going to try to do to Barca in the final.

    If there was any real justice in the world, the CL final would be Barcelona-Arsenal. If Arsenal had gotten the draws that ManU did, they would be there too. I can only dream of what it would be like to have a CL final between the two best FOOTBALLING sides in the world, as opposed to one of the best footballing sides against the best cheating side. Sigh.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    It’s ok.. You can say it.. The best footballing side 🙂

  • Mandy dodd

    @Anne, agree with you on the real game joses team were a disgrace. I was referring more to the fact that in Spain refs quite rightly on the whole protect skilful technical players.
    In the spanish league, a teams like Stoke Bolton Birmingham wouLd not be allowed to treat barca as they treat arsenal in the English league.
    In Spain skill and technique are valued nurtured and cherished maybe that is why Spain do a bit better than England these days

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Much as I disliked the defence of Shawcross after he broken Ramsay’s leg, I have to admit that is the job of his manager. The FA is the prosecutor and judge of the case but the team, that is the say, the manager has no choice but to stick up for him because as we all know, the FA when they come after you don’t reallly listen.

    No, what bothered me was all the “neutrals” that stuck up for Shawcross. Clearly, he came in recklessly. How can you judge intent? It is difficult without an admission from the player, but you can see that he came in very late and hurt him badly. Arsenal’s point wasn’t that he wanted to hurt Ramsay but that the guy was out of control and all these jerk-offs that defended Shawcross didn’t get that…or didn’t want to. A***holes!

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Thanks 🙂 I’m not going to say it though, because I honestly thought that Arsenal was better than us at the Emirates. This year’s tie ended in a stale mate thanks to the Van Persie sending off, so I guess we’ll have to settle the question later.

    I give Arsenal a lot more credit than most people for that Emirates victory, and I don’t think that it was any kind of fluke or anomaly. Arsenal won that match because they were getting behind Barca’s backline and in on goal before Barca could catch up to intercept them. And I’ve never seen any club do that as well as Arsenal did.

    At this point, I’m seriously wondering if Arsenal is going to be the first club that’s really able to punish Barca for that high back line that they like to play. If they are, Barca won’t be able to push up against them, and that would kind of dismantle their offense. Who would be the better club then? 🙂
    I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

  • andy bishop

    @ Anne..absolutely correct. It will come as no shock that “over the ball” and “late tackling” has been taught in the English game for many years now. In the old Metropolitan League some games turned into hacking shops. In those days it was taught as a last resort in case games were going against you. Today even at top level it is the norm. Pros and in particular managers take a calculated gamble as to how much they can get away. They teach their players to harang and harass referees in an attempt to widen their window of opportunity. This in my book is cheating not professionalism. The laws are there to control this behaviour but fail miserably as the referees whether by design or requirement are forever re drawing the line when interpreting. The consequence of all this is for players that want to play who see the culprits getting away with it at game level react by diving and theatrically question every referees decision to address the balance. This is not football as we all knew it. The solution at top level is for the simulation law to be applied and for a third referee on video replay to review bad tackles. I am in no doubt that Shawcross hit Ramsey as hard as he could for it to be his bad luck if he could not get out of the way. All done under instructions to disturb him as he was extremely influential in that game. This is cheating… Ramsey out for a year and Shawcross for a couple of games now back doing what he does best.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You do give Arsenal a lot of credit 🙂 Thanks.. At SOME stage it is going to happen. Arsenal will become better than Barca. Both teams are in different stages of development and yes we were close to eliminating Barcelona. In the future at some point we will improve and Barcelona will decline. It’s just the cyclical nature of sport teams, and maybe we can be the best footballing side then. But for now, Barcelona are. We could have been better over the tie, but we do not do it as consistently as Barca do. Simply put, Barcelona are top, but we are close 🙂