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Football Is A Contact Sport

Friday 17th February 2012
Over the last few weeks there have been several instances highlighted in the media of red cards being given to players for tackles that are deemed 'reckless' or 'dangerous' by the referee. These decisions are not new to the game, the Premier League in particular, but the red cards brandished for these tackles seem to have escalated in recent weeks. Is this because of dysfunctional governing bodies protecting players? Is it simply bad judgement by referees? Or is it something deeper than that?

Traditionally, heavy challenges were an integral part of football. It was previously not uncommon for at least one player per game to get a contact injury. That's simply the way it was. I don't suggest that this was a good thing, although I don't think it was necessarily a bad thing. Such a step backwards in time could go a long way to eradicating the petulant diving problem which continues to grind emotions of fans around the country.

Do not take me as nationalist, but I would suggest that the high amount of foreign players playing in England have had a huge impact on refereeing decisions. Certain players who I will not reference, seem to be against hard tackling and contact between players. It is their dramatics after tackles that not only influence the decision of officials but also deter players from making certain challenges. Being a football traditionalist, seeing players writhing on the floor needlessly is distressing. Losing the element of contact from the game may make the game safer but will it necessarily make it better?

Will it be improved as a spectator sport? I don't think it will. I am a Bolton fan, a team famous for a physical style. What I have noticed is that a firm but well timed tackle will often enhance the atmosphere across the stadium equally as well if not more than a fluent passing move. Fans love to see that sort of commitment from a player. They love to see a player take the game to opposition in a physical way. I fear at this rate, we will lose this aspect of the game.

I'm not promoting poor, reckless tackles, rather defending tackles that are controlled and safe. Two footed lunges are not good for the game, I would agree on that. But I cannot see a problem in firm yet controlled challenged. On many occasions this season, games have been ruined by Referee's dismissing players for good tackles. The first example I will highlight is Vincent Kompany's red card against Manchester United in the FA Cup.

This was a tackle that was forceful but as I saw it, fair. He won the ball and made absolutely no contact with the man. The way I was taught to play football that's not even a foul let alone a red card. The argument is that he left the ground and his studs were showing, but how does a player make a sliding tackle without showing their studs? Especially considering the amount of camera angles we can see the challenge on, somebody is going to consider the studs to be showing. At the point of contact Kompany's studs are pointing away from Nani and he actually makes contact with the ball using his shin and lower ankle. Therefore the studs are irrelevant to the tackle. I will add that Nani makes no reaction to the tackle, credit to him. This however can give you an insight into how the tackled player viewed the challenge.

I find it absolutely ridiculous that a player can win the ball, make no contact with the player and still be sent off. The second example I will highlight is Nenad Milijas' red Against Arsenal in the league back in December. As far as i'm concerned this is one of the worst decisions of the season. In a sense however, I don't blame the referee rather Arteta's ridiculously dramatic tumble and Van Persie's gesturing to the referee. Arteta's leap in the air firstly makes the referee consider the tackle to be of excessive force when in fact there is very little force and very little contact. Then Van Persie embarrasses himself by running across half the pitch to try and get Milijas sent off.

Firstly Milijas wins the ball, the ball diverts away from Arteta. Secondly, Milijas doesn't go in 2 footed, it is evidently a one footed challenge, well within the laws of the game. He doesn't leave the floor really either, that twinned with the fact he makes contact using his toes more than his studs means that this tackle is 100% fair according to the laws of the game. But yet again a player has been sent off for a tackle that is fair and legal, a decision that had a huge effect on the match and the result.

I think this problem will only escalate towards a breaking point and ultimately a decision from a governing body. I personally would hate to see firm tackles eradicated from the game but I fear this could become a reality if actions are not taken. Referees need to be told the guidelines towards these tackles. Young players need to be taught not only how to tackle properly within the laws of the game but also how to ride firm tackles. With these measures, I believe it may be possible to retain this vital aspect of our game.
Adam Russell
Bolton Fan and Blackpool youth player,football is my life

Total articles: 7

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