by Walter Broeckx
An injury free world cup? Who’s responsible?
Since Tony has given my the opportunity to do some writing on Untold I have on occasionally tried to provide some information on the rules in football and how refs should act according the guidelines given by Fifa.
As with every World Cup Fifa is giving instructions to the refs to focus on certain fouls and to try and ban them from football.
Yesterday I read an interview in a newspaper with Mr. D’hooghe, who is the president of the medical committee from Fifa. Mr. D’hooghe is a member of the Belgian FA (KBVB), he was the president of the KBVB for some 14 years and in his daily life he is a doctor and he is specialised in sports medicine and rehabilitation. He also was president of Club Brugge one of the big clubs in Belgium football.
And in this interview he said some things that sounded like the sweetest music in my ears.
During the last year I have been writing on occasion on how every tackle when a player comes in with an outstretched leg is a foul because it is dangerous. Never mind if the player plays the ball, a dangerous tackle is always a foul. You could have been thinking that I was just talking a bit of nonsense, but D’Hooghe told in the newspaper that the medical committee had asked Fifa to give instructions to the refs to always give a red card when players come in with a stretched leg to an opponent. It was as if I was listening to myself for once.
D’Hooghe also pointed out that the first doctor on the field is the ref. He is the one that has to make sure that the players come out without injury. Off course no one can rule out that a player hurts his hamstring when doing a back heel. No one can prevent a player getting a serious knee injury when he is trying to turn an opponent and his ligaments tears off. Those can be bad injuries but they are not caused by the action of an opponent.
But D’Hooghe stated that it is the refs job to get dangerous tackles out of the game and so prevent bad injuries caused by contact to happen. It’s the refs responsibility to punish all dangerous tackles and to give red cards so that the players will stop making those tackles. And once again I tell you that when a player jumps up to avoid the impact from such a tackle and that the defender plays the ball it still is a foul and it still is dangerous. A player doesn’t have to wait for the impact and for his leg being broken before it is a foul.
D’Hooghe also said that in recent years too many good footballers have seen their careers ended after some brutal tackles from other footballers. And far too many players that never came back to the level they had before those bad accidents happened to them.
And he, as president of the medical committee of Fifa, wants to stop this. He also called to give those players causing such injuries a more severe punishment. He thinks it is not acceptable that a player who has just ended another player’s his career to be able to be back on the field after just missing a few games. I think we as Arsenal fans have seen enough examples in the last seasons to know what he means and to agree with him.
Other points that the medical committee has been focussing on in the past include the elbowing of players and the tackles from behind. Elbowing a player has caused some nasty head injury’s in the past and some players are specialists in the “oh, I didn’t know there was someone standing next to me’-elbow in the face.
Refs have been acting strong against it but as always after a while because of the pressure from the media and because maybe 1 red card was not justified the refs grow milder on the situations and at the end it is almost back business as usual. But hitting an opponent in the face with you elbow can cause very severe injuries and should be banned. In case of doubt just show the red card.
The tackle from behind is something that also has been punished with red cards in the past. In fact football is one of the few sports where the rules say that you can tackle from behind IF you don’t make contact with the opponent. This last point is often forgotten by many players and fans.
But the tackles that really should be banned are the one where a defender comes sliding in from a few yards out and is making contact with player and ball and brushes all away. The problem for the player that is on the wrong end of such a tackle is that he cannot get away. He cannot defend himself against it and the impact on his Achilles can ruin his season.
And if an attacker feels the tackle coming and jumps up to save his legs from being kicked to pieces there is a big chance that the ref will allow play to continue ‘because the defender played the ball’. Which is, of course, rubbish. A tackle from behind going through the player is dangerous and a foul. And when a player jumps up to save himself it is still a foul because of the dangerous nature of the tackle.
So if in the world cup you see some red cards given for tackles that even wouldn’t be called a foul in the games in the past you know where it is coming from. No normal person comes to a football match in the hope of being able to watch doctors trying to save a young persons leg after it has being chopped in two by some brutal player. And those who come to see these kind of things I would suggest to go and see some sports like cage fighting or so.
As Arsenal fans we have seen too many of our players being kicked out of games, being stretchered off with very bad injuries in the last seasons. I sometimes felt alone in my shouting that it should be stopped and should be punished. The media, the pundits always had excuses at hand to say it wasn’t that bad, that it was just clumsy, or mistimed. Well maybe it is time to make footballers more responsible for what they are doing.
To make them think before they come in with a stretched leg and hurt an opponent. And when they don’t think before they commit such dangerous tackles it should be that Fifa, Uefa and all the football associations give those players plenty of time to think about their behaviour after they have kicked another player’s leg to pieces. And I don’t mean three weeks thinking time. Make it 3 months at least.
So I will be hoping for a clean world cup with lots of good football and may the best team win. Let’s hope our players come out the world cup without injury and are fresh at the start of the season. And let us hope that we are being spared by the terrible images we have seen to much in the last seasons. And most of all: give us refs that dare to bring an end to brutality in football.
As Oscar Wilde said, so beautifully, “Tread lightly”.
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