By Tony Attwood
Driving back from the match today I heard the Stoke City manager, a Mr P. Lambert, state on BBC radio that the first Arsenal penalty should not have been given because his Stoke player had got the ball. The radio interviewer did not challenge or question this interpretation and his silence on the issue seemed to acknowledge that this was a fair point. The player got the ball, so no penalty.
The Guardian in its after match report by a Mr Dave Hynter, backed up the notion of the dubiousness of the penalty claiming
Bruno Martins Indi stretched into a penalty box challenge on Mesut Özil in the 74th minute.
It looked clumsy and a little risky as the Arsenal midfielder had worked the position on him but TV replays confirmed that Martins Indi had got a toe to the ball. Craig Pawson’s penalty award felt like a kick to the guts.
Now as I drove home I pondered this. Does “getting the ball” actually make a difference? To my simplistic thinking, a foul is a foul and whether a player “gets the ball” it is still a foul. If not, players could commit the most appalling assaults on each other in order to get the ball, and then get away with these actions because they had “got the ball.”
And yet the manager of Stoke, the Radio 5 interviewer and the Guardian writer all seem to suggest that “getting the ball” is important in deciding if a penalty is given.
The law of the game say, that direct free kick (or penalty if in the area) is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences:
- handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area)
- holds an opponent
- impedes an opponent with contact
- spits at an opponent
So we can see from that simple list, there is absolutely no mention of whether the player got the ball or not. It is irrelevant. If one player impedes another player with contact in the process of “getting the ball” it is a foul.
Now I am not sure if the manager of Stoke City, the Mr Lambert, actually knows the rules of the game or not. Either he does and he was being deliberately mischievous, or he does not, which is quite a sorry state for Stoke City and certainly explains why they are likely to go down.
But the interviewer on Radio 5, and a correspondent of the Guardian most certainly should know the rules of the game in order to hold down their positions. If they don’t know the rules, how on earth can they give any sort of commentary on what is going on? How can we take any of their commentaries seriously?
And yet neither of them raised the issue with the Stoke manager that getting the ball was utterly and totally irrelevant.
Whether this is a total lack of fundamental and basic knowledge that qualifies one to do the job, or a deliberate attempt to collude in doing Arsenal down, I can’t say. I would suggest the latter since surely we must expect both managers and “expert commentators” of whom the media love to boast, to know what they are talking about.
Actually though, I can’t believe I wrote that last sentence.
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