Does that look like the face of a man deliberately trying to get a yellow card? Really?
For the unfamiliar, the gimlet-headed, braying jackasses over at UEFA are considering slapping Andres Iniesta with an additional match ban for his “deliberate” picking up of a yellow, so as to serve the suspension in the meaningless away leg to Shakhtar, rather than the meaningful semi-final first leg. The decision will come down on Wednesday.
And the more I think about the Iniesta thing, the madder I get. The ref was card-happy that match, and in something of a peckish mood. Iniesta was just standing there, and appeared to be the correct distance away. And given that Iniesta only has about 6 yellows in his entire playing life, it isn’t at all beyond the realm that he could have played the rest of the Champions League without picking one up.
At the time that it happened, we all applauded the move, because he would serve his suspension against Shakhtar, who were dead and done in that tie. So we all presumed that he did it deliberately, right? And let’s assume for a moment that Iniesta did mean to pick up a yellow card, a tactic that is acquiring increasing legitimacy. Should he have waltzed over to a Shakhtar player and fouled the crap out of him, risking injury to himself and another player? Or is it easier to stand 9.5 paces away from the free kicker, looking innocent until the ref gives him the yellow card?
I understand UEFA’s stance on the matter. Deliberately picking up yellows circumvents the spirit of the law, and isn’t sporting, right? The players should play the matches as intended, and take their chances during the run of play. This brings to mind another question, a tactical one: If a key player is in danger of being suspended for a crucial match, why isn’t the tactic of deliberate acquisition of a yellow card a viable option?
Instead, it’s one of those things that is spoken about in hushed tones, like a social disease. And we’ve all seen the yellow acquisition play, where some defender or midfielder runs over and decks somebody. Guess that’s okay.
The club has appealed the potential ban, whose roots lie in the officials match report in which is was said that in the view of the referees, Iniesta deliberately picked up the card. For shame!
This happens all the time. When a pair of EE players were, last season, deemed guilty of yellowus deliberatus, they were slapped with a fine, atop the served one-match ban. Even that doesn’t seem fair to me. You served the ban, and take a risk. If a team suffers a couple of key injuries and there you are, serving your deliberate ban, the club is screwed, right? A penalty should be a penalty.
In this very space, there was high dudgeon against the EE players in question. Many labeled the move shambolic, douchetastic and other delightful, disdain-laced adjectives. Not sure why, except for the presence of the morbo that spices up everything we do in relation to That Other Spanish Club.
The tactic is legitimate. Is it sporting? I’m of two minds on that. It certainly isn’t cheating. It is manipulating matters in a way that makes a situation more convenient for your club? Yep, kinda like subbing a player off so that he doesn’t pick up a second yellow in a match. Will UEFA be coming after coaches who do that, now? Picking up a deliberate yellow is a form of player management that should be left up to a club. The risk, as mentioned earlier, is in choosing to be without that player.
For UEFA to sashay in after the fact and deem something wrong is, in my opinion, incorrect. And yes, I would be writing the same thing if it were a key EE player. Or maybe I wouldn’t, mostly because I wouldn’t care. But I would certainly have the same worldview: Let the clubs and coaches manage their squads, and shut up. Lots of things are done in this game that dance the mambo around the spirit of the law. If you come rolling in with your Vulcan Intention Detector, saying someone meant to do something, where does it stop?
–And, if UEFA and other governing bodies want to find something to do, why don’t they mandate the length of a stadium’s grass? As we all know by now, on Saturday for El Clasic, Mourinho told the grounds crew not to cut the grass. It rocketed up to a soul-crushing 27-29mm in height. Yet another tactic that might or might not be sporting, right? It is any less or more sporting than picking up a deliberate yellow?
Good question. In both cases, the idea is to manipulate the match in a way that favors your squad. It’s the same reason that our grass is a buzz-cut 20-24mm in height, and watered like a rain-slicked highway. It helps our game, just like long grass helped the EE in its task of keeping us from doing anything.
And we’ve seen that tactic before from a Mourinho team. Recall the barren, muddy mess of a pitch that was Stamford Bridge, one year that we rolled in to face Chelsea in Champions League knockout play. And it kinda worked. So are UEFA fines forthcoming because of pitch condition? No, right? Why? Isn’t that every bit, if not more unsporting than picking up a deliberate yellow?
It’s yet another example of why governing bodies should govern the sport, and stay the hell out of day-to-day match play that doesn’t involve serious sanction. It’s as stupid as the other day, when the NBA issued a statement admitting that the referees blew the call in a recent playoff game. So what! Unless you’re going to change the outcome to reflect the shot that shouldn’t have been allowed, what’s the point?
And not that I would ever wish to be accused of having anything in common with former EE cheese Jorge Valdano, but this is what he said after UEFA chose to investigate whether Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso deliberately picked up second yellows in a match, to avoid being suspended for any knockout stage matches:
“I can’t go into details but there have been many players who have done something similar and were not punished. [The Lyon midfielder] Juninho was penalised financially. [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and [Walter] Samuel, when they were at Inter, did something similar. There is no way to rely on the regulations.
“What happens at [my Lair of Evil]* also happens at other clubs but they [Uefa] are not as severe.”
(*Okay, maybe he didn’t say “Lair of Evil.” But he should have. –Editor)
Exactly. And here’s another thought for you conspiracy-seeking cules:
It probably isn’t all that hard to find a supporter or two who believes that UEFA wants to pave EE’s way into the Champions League Final by robbing us of one of our best players for a key match in their house. So they gin up an unusually severe penalty to effect that.
No, I don’t believe that. But when a governing body oversteps its bounds, the waters become suddenly muddy.