It’s one thing to lose, but it’s the way you lose that can rattle the football fans cages. Phelim Warren (@Freewheeler12) looks over last night’s non-effective refereeing and asks, what would Jack Taylor make of it?
By Phelim Warren – @FreeWheeler12
Who’s Jack Taylor I hear from the young bucks at the back of the Talking Baws class?
OK, I’ll tell you. Jack Taylor was an English referee (who sadly passed away in July 2012), the top English referee for years and he was chosen by FIFA to referee the World Cup Final of 1974 between West Germany and Holland in Munich. Taylor was rightly lauded for his utter belief in his ability and a man who wouldn’t shy away from a brave yet correct decision. So it panned out in the opening 90 seconds of that World Cup Final. Before a West German player had touched the ball in front of their home fans, Holland kept the ball expertly, ending when the great Johann Cruyff was taken down by Uli Hoeness just inside the German penalty area. Taylor immediately pointed to the spot. His decision was correct, but given the circumstances, it was also an almost unheard of or previously unseen act of supreme bravery and confidence. Neeskens converted the penalty but as we know, the never to be written off Germans came back to win, with Taylor awarding the hosts a penalty later in the half when former Celtic gaffer Wim Jansen brought down Bernd Holzenbein.
My praise and memory of Taylor comes to mind as the dust settles on the Celtic v Juventus Champions League game last night. What wouldn’t we have given for a Spanish equivalent of Taylor. Instead UEFA gave us Alberto Undiano Mallenco, a highly regarded and experienced referee. Yet Mallenco displayed not one bit of backbone (Baws?) or bravery by allowing Juventus (and in particular Lichtsteiner) to manhandle/jostle/block/obstruct Gary Hooper and Scott Brown time and time again during the match. With incredible regularity, the TV cameras focussed on these incidents when Celtic were given corner after corner. Yet time and again, Mallenco (and those totally pointless officials behind/beside the goal) chose to ignore the transgressing. To make matters even more bizarre, he then produced yellow cards for both Hooper and Lichtsteiner and later on, Scott Brown and Simone Padoin when it was 100% clear who was the offender and who was the victim.
It didn’t help one’s frustration and anger at what was going on when commentators/pundits referred to such blatant fouling as “Italian style” defending. So that makes it all right then yeah? Sorry, but it does not. When I think of Italian style defending, I think of the late great Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini, Claudio Gentile (although Maradona might take issue with me here!), Giuseppe Bergomi, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and latterly, Gianluca Zambrotta and the wonderful Fabio Cannavaro. Most of these also played for Juventus. None of them (in my memory anyhow) “defended” the way Lichtsteiner did at Celtic Park. His defending was not “Italian style” or any style. It was unlawful and referee Mallenco bottled it, badly.
When are UEFA/FIFA going to get serious on this infuriating and blatant fouling and instruct referees to start giving penalties? When will these (up to now) pointless goal-line officials start earning their expenses? If these incidents happened outside the box, they would be penalised 100 times out of 100. You can add this issue to UEFA/FIFA’s list of “to do” things. Simulating/cheating has not been properly addressed. Nor has racism. Nor has the ridiculous awarding of yellow cards to players who take a quick free kick. Technology still has not been addressed. Blatter and his cronies have a lot to do. The referee inspectors have a lot to do.
Apart from the late, great Jack Taylor, I recall a similarly brave referee in Anders Frisk. In the 2002 World Cup Last 16 game in Suwwon, Frisk awarded Ireland a penalty in injury time when Spain’s Fernando Hierro attempted to prematurely swop shirts with Niall Quinn. Hierro was aghast as he’d clearly gotten away with it before, yet the colourful Frisk was having none of it and gave the penalty. Robbie Keane scored the penalty to send the match into extra time (before Spain triumphed in a penalty shoot-out). Frisk had been brave but he’d been correct. Sadly, a few short years later, Frisk was pretty much hounded out of football (and allowed to have been) when he had the temerity to upset Chelsea and Jose Mourinho as a result of some similarly brave yet correct calls in a Champions League match with Barcelona. Anyone spot a pattern emerging here?
Decisions that are deemed brave seem to have no place in football anymore. Referees seem to be conforming to safe, cop-out decisions (Howard Webb leaving Nigel De Jong on the park in the 2010 World Cup Final anyone?). Spain’s Mallenco wil probably go on to officiate at a major final for his conformity. Lichtsteiner and his ilk will continue to get away with murder at set pieces. Commentators will tut tut and spout “that’s the Italian way” when this happens. Penalties will not be given. Unless Jack Taylor is re-incarnated in some up and coming referee. I won’t hold my breath on that one.
What do you think, was last night’s refereeing a sign of the times; no one dare make a brave decision any more? Is it fair to also call it ‘Italian Defending’ when people are wrestled to the ground? Let us know what you think or tweet @talingbaws and let us know what you think.