Using their trademark trickery, some of the soccer world’s best drama queen’s have again managed to pull the wool over the eyes top-rated referees in high profile matches over the weekend.
This weekend’s latest unwitting victims were English Premier League referee Howard Webb - who was officiating Saturday’s West Ham vs. Swansea match - and La Liga head official official Miguel Ayza Gamez in Saturday’s heated clash between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid.
World Footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and West Ham targetman Andy Carroll were both wrongfully ejected for perceived incidents of violent conduct, but were in fact both victims of unsportsmanlike conduct.
In both cases the referees – Webb and Gamez - appeared to rush to their decisions too quickly without consulting linesmen, and in both cases their misguided punishment had a huge impact over the outcome of each match.
The Portuguese international who recently won FIFA’s top-player award was issued his walking papers in the 75th minute of their 1-1 La Liga clash with Bilbao.
After a scuffle in the penalty area, Ronaldo appealed to referee Gamez for a hand ball and then gave a light push to Bilbao’s Carlos Gurpegi who was protesting Ronaldo’s complaint. Gurpegi hit the ground like he had been clobbered and Gamez foolishly fell for the routine hook, line and sinker.
Los Blancos missed their chance to overtake Barcelona, while Ronaldo’s teammate Marcelo said after the match Gamez’ decision to issue red to Ronaldo was wrong.
Both referees defended their harsh decisions for the ejections following the matches.
Gamez said in his post-game match report that Ronaldo scratched Gurpegi near his eyes and failed to back away from the scrum that followed, with the official saying he had no choice to send Ronaldo off.
EPL referee Howard also stood by his red card to West Ham’s Carroll.
Carroll and Swansea’s Chico Flores became entangled late in the second half as the two players challenged for a high ball. Flores appeared to horse collar Carroll with a full-nelson as the two players came back down to the ground. Irritated by the rough treatment, Carroll immediately swung around and cleared out Flores with his arm.
Flores hit the ground and rolled into a series of seven almost comical somersaults while holding his face. The only person Flores’ over-embellishment convinced was the one who mattered most.
Webb made no hesitation in pulling out red for the infraction despite the protests of Hammers players, leaving Carroll in disbelief as he headed for the tunnel.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce questioned Webb’s decision in his post-match comments:
“It’s [the red card] is an injustice,” said Allardyce “There’s got to be someone in the cold light of day look at that and say it is not a red card – the last thing we want is to lose Andy Carroll for three matches.”
Although West Ham won the match 2-0, they lost their appeal on Tuesday and will now lose their striker for the next three matches.
Carroll was enraged with the ban and took to social media to slam the governing body for their ruling on his Twitter account on Tuesday, simply saying the decision was “disgraceful.`
What clearly needs to be remembered here is Webb and Gamez both rushed to their decisions too quickly and failed to consult their linesmen before reaching for their pockets to dismiss Carroll and Ronaldo.
Yes both appeared to be fouls or infractions worthy of a yellow card for all players involved but to target Ronaldo and Carroll based clearly on reputation is wrong.
At some point it would be refreshing to see a match official reach into his pocket and produce red for a player like Flores or Gurpegi, for unsportsmanlike conduct and cheating.
We have seen this happen in previous years, where officials will issue cards for players trying to draw penalties. So why not an ejection or caution for those stooping so low as to fake head injuries?
It is disappointing to see that league officials will likely do the wrong thing and defend the officials instead of admitting error.
In the end the both decisions rewarded the worst type of unsportsmanlike behavior: cheating.
The outcome will no doubt let the perpetrators think they can get away with more of the same.
But more importantly both incidents have left a bad taste in the mouths of the fans and did a disservice to the beautiful game due to misguided officiating.