Refs Need To Crack Down More, Not Less
When was the last time you saw a player take his jersey off to celebrate and not get a card? It never happens. However, referees are also mandated that a tackle from behind warrants an automatic red card - and how many times does that go unpunished? Read a bit deeper into the Laws of the Game, and the Advice to Referees and you will see that grabbing a jersey or kicking an ankle is a foul, and if it's in the box it's a penalty. Too many of these infractions go uncalled. Even worse, many of them result in the fouled attacker getting a yellow card for simulation. Throughout the first month of the season, Major League Soccer referees were ridiculed on the number of cards that were being issued. Baldomero Toledo was raked over the coals for his performance in Vancouver's 1-1 draw with New England. The most remembered card was the second yellow to Whitecaps striker Eric Hassli for his double-jersey celebration. Now I'm not saying Toledo is always right, but he had no choice in this match. FIFA has ruled that taking of your jersey is an unnecessary waste of time and should be punished. Toledo also pulled cards on elbows with a red for Gershon Koffie and for Hassli's first yellow. Ask former US international Tab Ramos about errant elbows. His magnificent career (and perhaps his life) was almost ended by an elbow from Brazil midfielder Leonardo. There was a later play in the box where Camilo was bumped off his feet by Zach Boggs. Many critics said it should not be a penalty because Camilo would not have been able to get to the ball. That doesn't matter. Would it have been a foul outside the area? If so, then it has to be a foul inside the box. Perhaps a red card against A.J. Soares in the 75th minute might have only warranted a yellow, but by that point the two teams had already shown a blatant disregard for the rules, the ref and each other I can't blame Toledo for ejecting the rookie. David Beckham brought this referee-bashing to such a boil that MLS Commissioner Don Garber pulled a Pontius Pilate and pointed the finger of blame at US Soccer, who are responsible for the referees. Instead, Garber should have pointed the finger right back at the Spice Brat whose five yellows were all his own doing. In fact, an unpunished scissoring tackle from behind on DC United's Josh Wolff didn't even get called at all. It should have been a straight red. Even if the referee missed it, if the league was serious about protecting its precious players, Garber should have been announcing a suspension for Beckham based on the video. Many in the soccer media made a Pavlovian jump to Beckham's side of the argument, complaining that referees were not letting the players play. Officials were imposing themselves as Star Judges of the game. However, if Beckham had been punished for his plowing challenge, might Brian Mullen and Jon Leathers have thought twice before their crushing blows this past weekend? If even the poster-boy of MLS was told to clean it up, maybe Steve Zakuani and David Ferreira would be playing this weekend instead of out for the year. More ridicule, unbelievably backed up by MLS referee boss Paul Tamberino, directed towards the rookie ref in Canada who issued a second yellow when Tony Tchani jumped onto the barrier to celebrate his goal with Toronto fans this past weekend. However, FIFA guidelines say that any time a player jumps up on a fence or barrier to celebrate it should be punished with a caution. I’ve always liked Tamberino’s work. When he was in the middle he was one of the league’s best referees, but he’s dead wrong here. Why? When fans crush forward to join the celebration, there is sometimes a disastrous aftermath. Even this year in one of GolTV's Europa League broadcasts, a player ran over to celebrate a goal - only for a small fence to collapse under the weight of the fans, several of whom were hurt in the ‘celebration.’ And if you think there should be some discretion allowed to the officials when it comes to things like this, ignoring the rules is not the way to do it. Picking which laws to follow and which to ignore leads to anarchy. If you don’t like the law, campaign to change it. Personally, I think the yellow card for taking off a jersey is ridiculous, but refs show no hesitancy and players understand the consequences. Officials, administrators, coaches and players are all to blame for allowing the thuggish side of MLS to get to this point. There should be a balance between the physical and the cerebral, but in MLS the scale has tilted too far. There is a lot of talent in the league, but by not cracking down before there are two less talented players today than there were a week ago. Many critics of a potential crackdown say that it would ruin the game with constant stoppages and ejections. Not so. Within a couple of weeks, most players would adapt and the ones that can't would be replaced. A more creative, attractive, attacking game would have room to grow.