It’s time for the Football Association to send a meaningful message to Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings on concussion protocol with a hefty suspension.
The Red Devils’ striker has already sent his own message delivering a brutal elbow to the head of his opponent, defender Chris Mings and then having the arrogance and stupidity to deny his intent and arrogantly laughed it off after the match claiming Mings had “jumped into his elbow.” If you aren’t disgusted by this display you should be.
The attempts to defuse the situation by Zlaten generated some comical headlines are far-too revealing and also expose a much bigger problem: The lack of movement and inability for governing bodies, its players, coaches and referees to take a serious approach to concussion protocol and discipline. There is really nothing funny going on here because It has already been widely-documented that sports head injuries and concussions carry long-lasting effects on both professional and amateur players and are a global health crisis but soccer fails to evolve.
The glaring proof that the English Premier League and its body of dinosaur officials are still stuck in the Dark Ages? The latest proof of this played out prior to the halftime break of a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Saturday. As the two players jumped for the ball in front of the Bournemouth goal, Ibrahimovic extended his arm and delivered an intentionally placed elbow to the face of Mings who crumpled to the ground.
An automatic red card right? Nope. Not surprisingly, the two-time winner of our worst referee poll, alert referee Kevin Friend and his crack(ed) team of assistants failed to spot either incident and hand out both players their marching orders.
Moments earlier Ibrahimovic and his teammate Wayne Rooney had been involved in a full-stretch, three-player collision involving Mings. When Mings got to his feet he leaped over his opponents and came down with his cleats, also apparently deliberately, on the head of Ibrahimovic. An incident the referee and his assistants also missed.
Post-match discussion by most media outlets spoke of Ibrahimovic receiving a three-match ban for his acts. Not only was there little mention of a punishment for Mings but their estimation of the necessary punishment fell far short. It makes little difference that the player didn’t appear to suffer long-term injury on the play – it’s the tone of the discussion that is really more disturbing than Zlatan’s lack of self-control.
With this latest incident you can clearly see by the Ibrahimovic’s comments to the BBC that he clearly shows no remorse for his actions and little concern for his he opponent. Ibrahimovich denies it was an intentional elbow and even propagates the old-school attitude towards head injuries:
“Listen, what happens on the field stays on the field. I’m not someone who attacks someone off the field. You have the TV, you can see the images. I jump up and jump high and he [Mings] jumps into my elbow. It is not my intention to hurt someone.” ~ Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The handling by match officials and reaction from fans and the media exposes a much bigger problem on how concussion protocol and punishment for deliberate intent to injure in soccer are light years behind how other sports view such behaviour. Even full-contact sports like American football and hockey, along with basketball and baseball, have taken serious steps to address head injuries soccer lags far behind.
There are other stars in the Premier League who have also gotten off very lightly for their deliberate attempts to injure including some of its biggest stars who often moonlight as thugs when outside of the un-watchful eyes of referees. West Ham striker Andy Carroll and Chelsea’s Diego Costa have previously faced bans for swinging their arms at opponents even though they are repeat offenders. Earlier this season it was Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater who got off very lightly for his equally disgusting display of sportsmanship in his team’s clash with and his elbow to Watford’s Valon Behrami.
Then there have been uglier incidents where the flying elbows resulted in tragedy. Just ask Canadian International Iain Hume what he thinks about deliberate elbow. A flying elbow while he was playing for Sheffield United almost ended his career and his life.
So when does this change? When are football officials going to take a leadership role on this serious crisis instead of their do-nothing approach?
How about sending a real message, a deterrent for future incidents like this? The two players need to be suspended for ten matches.
Anything less than an extended ban for both players sends the signal to players in the league and the young ones watching that this type of behavior is essentially condoned and that retaliation and frontier justice are okay.
A wimpy three-match ban also sends the message that despite the fact that the actions of both players could have led to serious long-term injury neither will pay the price for their actions.