By Mal Davies
ENDANGERING THE SAFETY OF AN OPPONENT
There has been such a positive response to my article two weeks ago on Nani’s red card that, after three incidents in the recent FIFA World Cup qualifiers, here are a few more of my thoughts, with the three incidents that produced three different decisions : no action, an indirect free kick and a red card.
Consider the top players in football. They are paid huge salaries nowadays. Fans pay good money to see their star players in action. But, far too often, those players miss games mainly due to injury through opponents’ robustness. Sometimes one tackle will see a player miss a couple of games. Quite often it is an accumulation of poor tackles that will lead to a player’s absence.
The robust tackle has to be eliminated from the game. The Laws need to protect the skilful player so that football becomes once again the beautiful game. At present, football does produce a number of ugly incidents: too many, in fact. Clubs, managers, coaches and physios ought to appreciate the improving protection the Laws give to their players. Referees are there to enforce any new interpretations. It is better for clubs to see their players appearing on the field every week than on their treatment table.
Without going into detail, referees are on their way to becoming uniform on their decisions with a two-footed tackle, any tackle with studs showing and any tackle that endangered the safety of an opponent. An argument against the red card has been : “Ah! But he got the ball.” But people have started to realise that winning the ball is not relevant. The robust challenge, in which the tackler claimed he had won the ball first, is a red card if the referee considered it had endangered the safety of an opponent even though the opponent may have ridden that tackle and got up uninjured.
One of the ways to tackle without risking a red card is instep to instep. This can be delivered with a reasonable degree of force without causing injury. But players who cannot get to the ball for such a tackle will lunge at the ball, with their body off the ground, with one or both feet, and with no control of their airborne body – it is a red card for endangering the safety of an opponent : serious foul play (SFP).
Now consider the raised foot : A player who raises his foot above waist high (a guide) will run the risk of a red card. So a player should not do so unless certain that his foot will not make contact with an opponent.
A player can head or chest the high ball but if he uses his foot, he should make sure there is no player in the immediate vicinity whose safety will be endangered (red card).
Players now need to realise they can no longer control a high ball with their foot if the referee deems it has endangered the safety of an opponent. The fact that the player did not mean to endanger his opponent is irrelevant. Intent is no longer in the Laws. The referee does not need to consider whether the player deliberately did it or not. He looks at the outcome which is contact or no contact.
If there is no physical contact, the player can be penalised for dangerous play (DP), and play is restarted with an indirect free kick. If there is physical contact, then the offence is no longer categorised as DP, but as SFP, and the restart is a direct free kick or a penalty kick.
A scissors kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent. If performed in the penalty area it can produce a spectacular goal. But if the player has not made sure that he was not endangering the safety of an opponent then he risks a red card for SFP.
Compare the player who raises his foot because he cannot get to a high ball to head or chest it, with the player who lunges for the ball because he cannot tackle instep to instep. The raised foot and lunge are both red cards for SFP if the referee considered the safety of an opponent was endangered.
Football must move with the times. The game will be all the better after eliminating those incidents that endanger the safety of an opponent. The Laws and referees have, more or less, dealt with the endangerment with the low foot, as it were. Now they need to eliminate the high foot.
27th March 2013
FIFA World Cup qualifier, Saturday 23rd March : South Africa v Central African Republic (2-0)
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