By Walter Broeckx
What a big chance the refs have missed on Sunday.
The plan was that Thierry Henry would have played the last 5 minutes for Arsenal in the game between Arsenal and New York Red Bulls. But the refs didn’t allow this as it was against the rules.
First let us take on the rules. I don’t know what the point of view of Fifa is but in my country with most of the laws there is something that is known under the principle: “All that is not strictly forbidden is allowed”. But I don’t know if this is the same in England. Or if this is the same thing for Fifa. Because I have been looking it up in the rulebook and there is nowhere a line that says: ‘A player from team A cannot play for team B”.
I know in normal life and competition this will never happen. No team will ever want to play one of their own players in the other team. So this is a question that never is being asked. But now we had a pre-season tournament with already some special rules in force and agreed by other teams and also the refs. Rules that are different from the normal ones. Like how many points a team can earn. So in a way because of this the Emirates cup already moved itself out of the strict rulebook from Fifa.
The rule book also states that in those games you can have 6 substitutions unless there is an agreement between all the clubs and the ref is informed before the game starts. So if the 4 teams would have agreed before the tournament that more than 6 subs could be used and the ref knew about this they could have changed 11 players if they wanted during a game.
And talking about rules in tournaments, all kind of pre-season tournaments happen and sometimes with very strange rules. Like 3 teams playing each other in games of 45 minutes. It happens and no one cares really even though this is totally against Fifa rules on how long a game should be played. But the teams agree with it, the refs know about it and everyone is happy and fine with it.
In this case there seemed to be an agreement between Arsenal and the New York Red Bulls to have a final five minutes of Thierry Henry in an Arsenal shirt. Because everyone knows that the New York Red Bulls have to agree with such a thing they were asked but they didn’t oppose the idea. And Theirry Henri also loved the idea. So all is fine and well? Just give the player this final salute and give the supporters in the stadium something to be excited about?
Er, no noo nooooo. The ref didn’t allow it. It was against the rules (even though I can’t find it in the laws of the games – but it could be in other rules I admit). But for heaven’s sake… this was not the Champions League final or the world cup final. No this was just a game of the Emirates cup. A game in fact as meaningless as our game against a Malaysian team or Barnett.
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Strictly speaking one could say: hey there is a trophy at stake. I think even the hardest Arsenal fan will not be bothered that much about the Emirates trophy. Even Arshavin said last week that they would give up on the Emirates cup in the blink of an eye and swap it for a real trophy. Maybe they just did this as in the seasons we won the Emirates cup we didn’t win anything else so far.
And we also have seen other things at the Emirates (and in many other grounds) in other friendly and testimonial games. Those testimonial games are also played according to Fifa rules but there it has happened that the game was played between two teams of the player who is celebrated and then he plays for both sides a while. No one is saying NO against that.
So hearing that the ref said no to Henry playing just 5 minutes for Arsenal is maybe the biggest disappointment of last weekend. Wouldn’t it have been fun for all and everyone? The managers liked it, the players liked it. And the only person who could stop it, stopped it. Well as refs are not the most favourite people on a football pitch and for the one time they get the chance to show and gain some sympathy by allowing something that could not happen in the league but that could be allowed in a friendly pre season game they throw this chance away.
A course on how to do some public relations would not be a bad thing for refs and the PGMOL as I think the ref will have used his phone to ask what to do. I just wondered if the rumour I heard is correct. I heard that someone in the referee changing room was singing after the game : “Thierry tried to play for Arsenal, but I said ‘no, no, no’ “