FIFA have handed German midfielder Torsten Frings a one-match ban for a punch thrown on Argentina striker Cruz in the melee following the Germany-Argentina quarter-final penalty shootout.
I don’t disagree with the logic. By letting one player get away with minor misconduct they would be inviting a dozen other players to step over the line as well. Setting a precedent is important, and in a high-profile case such as this it becomes absolutely necessary to set an example.
FIFA have taken a stand on physical violence on the football field and for that I commend them. Football may be more than just a game, but coming to blows during the match is unacceptable. Fair enough.
Having said that, the incident did not happen during the match.
It happened afterwards, in the middle of a melee of which no one knows the facts of and all we have are quotes from the Germans (Bierhoff, Ballack, Mertesacker, Frings) and video evidence, which shows Frings being pushed in the face by Cruz before he retaliates with a weak punch across Cruz’s jaw, before he is pulled back by security officials.
FIFA have been prompted to action because of the clip being aired on Italian TV (which was later also shown on German TV). The question to ask FIFA here is:
How come they hadn’t analysed this video evidence earlier?
They had initially said that no action would be taken against German players – presumably they had seen the evidence before making this decision.
So either FIFA was negligent (and did not catch the incident on tape), or they did catch it but kept quiet until the Italian media pimped the short clip like anything (the replays are especially well-done). Neither of the two scenarios reflect well on the organisation.
And now to the actual punishment.
In laying the law smack down on Frings, FIFA have basically said:
If you retaliate to any sort of provocation, even physical, you will get punished.
I assume that’s what Rooney got sent off for as well (I still don’t think the stamping incident was getting Rooney a straight red – not that the red card itself was fair).
The problem with such a stand is that FIFA have refused to take any action against the rampant playacting and diving by players on the pitch, even though ‘replays’ of those incidents are aired so many times on TV.
If FIFA wants to cut down on simulation it will have to take an active stand by reviewing video evidence of key incidents and deciding on them after the match. You cannot leave it to the referee on the spot who has very little time in which to give a decision and often does not have a clear view of the incident.
Germany now go into the semi-final today against Italy without their key holding midfielder. Tim Borowski is a fine replacement, but all signs point to an Italian Job on a bunch of bureaucrats who have failed to solve the worst problem in football (cheating) but in the process have created a new one (unintelligent, inconsistent refereeing).
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