At some point UEFA will need to put their foot down again concerning football’s spoiled-rotten cry babies and players swarming referees over controversial calls in matches.
Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir allowed a little too much of that overenthusiastic but blatantly unsportsmanlike behaviour in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League victory by Barcelona over Juventus. The game itself was fairly exciting and entertaining with the Spaniards capturing a 3-1 victory; But the abuse Cakir suffered at the hands of both teams was unacceptable and sends out the wrong message at a time when soccer and FIFA are bruised and battered.
Hands down! A player should never be allowed to put his hands on a referee under any circumstance but Cakir, hoping not to be the centre of attention in the match, allowed the guilty parties to get away with it on more than the two most blatant incidents.
Juventus players made physical contact with Cakir in the 36th minute after their illegitimate appeals for a penalty kick went denied after Paul Pogba was fouled by Jordi Alba. The foul (which was not called) occurred outside the penalty area. The behaviour of several Juventus players should have warranted a booking by Cakir.
There were several other flashpoints in the match where players on both teams were not either punished or warned for their verbal abuse of Cakir (and at very close range) but things boiled over again in the 72nd minute. In an even more ridiculous scene, the match threatened to unravel completely after Neymar inadvertently handled the ball before heading it home and players on both teams could be seen pushing and shoving Cakir as each side argued their case about the play.
This isn’t the first time the issue of player swarmings has come up either. The last high-profile swarming incident occurred in a March Champions League clash between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers found himself in a scrum of Chelsea players before eventually giving a red card to PSG’s Zlaten Ibrahimovic for his rash foul. The conduct of the Chelsea players resulted in Ibrahimovic`s infamous ‘Chelsea babies’ quote and left such a bad taste in the mouths of most observers (both neutral and partisan) it led to a flurry of criticism.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you there is a self-control problem in the beautiful game, last year’s infamous Super Cup final clash victory by Real Madrid over Atletico Madrid where Atletico coach Diego Simeone was suspended eight matches for laying his hands on the fourth official while protesting a call, should push you over the edge.
UEFA appeared to be thoroughly incensed about the incident as president Michel Platini sent a directive to all clubs warning them about such conduct. But all of these recent blow-ups seem to have been quickly forgotten as the conduct of both Juventus and Barcelona players on Saturday was despicable. Soccer can learn by the example set by basketball and the NBA where any criticism of a referee by a player or coach is met with an automatic technical foul. The NFL has also recently adopted similar measures to end such conduct by players.
An ounce of prevention is surely the cure for this problem but UEFA and other governing bodies have failed to adequately deal with referee abuse. Unfortunately, it will likely take continued progression for slow-moving soccer officials to take serious action.