First published February 10th 2011
You hear a lot of it, especially when an Arsenal player has just been hospitalised by a ‘fair’ tackle – ‘stop your whinging, football is a contact sport’.
Well, here’s the thing – it isn’t.
It is a ‘limited-contact’ sport, and in the word ‘limited’ lies a massive difference.
Other ‘limited-contact’ sports include basketball, baseball, field hockey, netball (yes, NETBALL), squash, running and ultimate frisbee.
The idea is to get the ball while touching your opponent as little as possible.
Contact sports? Well they include such things as Australian rules football, rugby, American football, wrestling, sumo, ice hockey, kick-boxing, judo, karate, and other forms of martial arts (though not all, some are deemed ‘semi-contact’ – stop it!).
Can you see how football doesn’t quite fit in to the category of ‘full contact’?
Limited Contact is defined as this:
“Limited-contact sports are sports in which the rules are specifically designed to prevent contact between players either intentionally or unintentionally. Although contact can still happen, strong penalties are often used to disallow substantial contact between players. These penalties, including physically removing players from the field of play, mean that contact is moderate or rare”
There has been a lot of talk, once again, that Arsenal fans are whingers and sore losers by the fact that they did not like Barton’s tackle on Diaby. “He won the ball” they say. “if they don’t like it, perhaps they should play netball” is another.
There is absolutely NOTHING in the laws of the game which states that as long as your studs graze the ball you can throw your body in to your opponent as hard as you like. There is NOTHING that states winning the ball is all that matters, yet that line is trotted out as much as ‘he’s not that type of player’.
Well, do you know what, Barton IS that kind of player. He knew exactly what he was doing when he challenged Diaby and he knew that as long as he touched the ball, no matter how lightly, he would likely be ok and remain on the pitch.
Don’t believe me? Then let’s look at the rules of the game shall we.
Direct free kick
A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:
• kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
• trips or attempts to trip an opponent
• jumps at an opponent
• charges an opponent
• strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
• pushes an opponent
• tackles an opponent
See ANYTHING there where it says you can do those things as long as you win the ball?
Indirect free kicks (I’ve taken out the stuff talking about handballs etc):
An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
• plays in a dangerous manner
• impedes the progress of an opponent
• prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
• commits any other offence, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player
Causing a players leg to bend until it almost breaks? Is that not ‘playing in a dangerous manner’?
Notice how it is a Direct Free Kick if a player even tackles another player in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force?
Absolutely nowhere in the rules does the excuse of ‘winning the ball’ appear. Nowhere. You can search for yourself if you like. Here are the rules of the game.
Winning the ball IS NOT all that matters.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the outlawing of tackling, a good, hard, fair tackle is part of the game – even Wenger says so, you know Arsene Wenger, that Arch-Enemy of tackling if you are to believe all that you read. The important word there is fair.
What I am saying is that the way tackling is judged in the Premier League is wrong. The priorities in the game are wrong, and the way people defend it are wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
A push in the back? Off you go son. A knee high challenge which almost breaks a leg, but his foot touched the ball? Well that’s ok then, all part of the game.
After all, he won the ball didn’t he?
Mistakes and accidents will happened on a football pitch, but not as often as people will have you believe. If a player ends up with a broken leg after a tackle, chances are, there was something very, very wrong with that tackle.
Even if he did get the ball.