Friday, October 20, 2006
Chelsea vs Reading
Chelsea Vs Reading 14/10/2006 - video powered by Metacafe
Chelsea and the murderers, and shuai shuai Terry~
English head games
Gabriele Marcotti, SI.com
As you read this, Petr Cech is lying somewhere in a London hospital with a fractured skull. That's right, his head -- the part of his body which contains his brain and vital functions -- is broken. Kaput.
When Chelsea played Reading last weekend, Steven Hunt barreled into Cech, dropping his knee down into the goalkeeper's head. To add insult to injury, Cech's backup, Carlo Cudicini, was also laid out by a Ronnie Lott-style hit, this time courtesy of Ibrahima Sonko.
And it's all because of an idea, an idiotic concept founded on 19th-century machismo, summed up in such moronic cliches as "being entitled to go for the ball" and "letting him know you're there."
Even as the rest of the world has moved on, this pernicious notion remains rife in the English game: It's the idea that goalkeepers are pampered wusses who deserve, when the ball is within striking distance, to be "rattled."
Thus we are treated to the weekly spectacle of Premiership strikers turning into NFL linebackers as they barrel into goalkeepers and fly studs-first into a prone keeper's body. After all, they're just going for the ball, aren't they?
My friend and former Republic of Ireland center forward, Tony Cascarino, articulated this thinking nicely in The Times, writing that "goalkeepers are overprotected already" and that "without physical contact, football is nothing." He then goes on to list the various injuries he sustained in his long career as a rough-and-tumble target man: "All my teeth have been capped or broken. My nose has been broken three times. Etc, etc."
There are several problems with that logic. First and foremost, there are different kinds of physical contact. It's one thing to tackle hard where, even if you miss the ball, the most you'll do is break a leg or tear up a kneecap. That's an acceptable level of risk. It's quite another when people's heads are involved: The damage done there can be permanent.
That's why we have rules against dangerous play. That's why you can't fly through the air leg-first, Jackie Chan-style at head-height in a crowded penalty box. Even if you get the ball cleanly, you will still be penalized because it's, well, dangerous.
The rest of the world seems to understand this concept quite clearly and that it also applies to goalkeepers. When they dive down to collect the ball, the most vulnerable parts of their bodies are totally exposed.
Not England. In the Premiership, no distinction is made between imperiling non-essential parts of a person's anatomy and risking quasi-decapitation.
English players are the first victims of this kind of attitude because when they play internationally, the "anything goes" school of refereeing goes out the window and stricter rules apply. And that's the other reason why the macho "he went for the ball" so-called logic makes no sense.
The whole issue in Cech's case has been clouded by other factors, such as whether Hunt was malicious and tried to hurt his opponent, whether Reading's emergency services were quick enough in tending to the injured Cech and whether this is just another step in the sissification of the game, a trend which began when FIFA outlawed the tackle from behind.
Let's be clear about this and cut through the crap. I don't know Hunt personally, but I know people who do, and I am convinced there was no malice in what he did. He is not a dirty player. He was pushing the envelope as far as the referee would allow it (and, in fact, said match official Mike Riley did not even blow for a foul). Yet it was nonetheless reckless and dangerous.
As for Reading's emergency services, Chelsea boss José Mourinho made some very serious allegations that need to be investigated. And if they are unfounded, he should be dealt with. But this has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
Similarly, the tackle from behind, the moans about the "lost art of defending," the lamentations about how it's becoming a non-contact sport and players cheat and dive have no real bearing on the subject. I like a good hard tackle as much as the next guy. And, yes, maybe the rules have swung too far against defenders.
But this is different. This is about running into a prone opponent and making no effort to avoid a collision between your knee and his head, knowing full well that you can do some very serious damage. Just because some referees allow it and there is no intent to harm does not make it right.
The solution is simple. When a goalkeeper comes out and he is totally exposed, opposing players should pull out of tackles if there is no realistic chance of getting the ball. And if they insist on running into goalkeepers (or gratuitously body-checking them like Sonko did) they should get a yellow card immediately.
This isn't about coddling goalkeepers. It's about protecting professionals from the kind of injuries that can end careers (or worse). Mourinho was being overly dramatic when he said Cech "could have died" (though, as I understand it, he wasn't far off). But it doesn't change the fact that the joy of seeing a grown man run into another man's head isn't worth injuries of this magnitude.
After seeing Michael Essien in Chelsea's midfield against Barcelona, it's worth making the point (again): Right now, he's the whole effing show. Andriy Shevchenko and Frank Lampard, while improving, are not yet at their best, Michael Ballack looks like a foreign object in midfield and the defense sorely misses William Gallas. Take Essien out of the mix and things would look rather grim, at least for the time being, at Stamford Bridge. ...
Speaking of Barcelona, replacing Samuel Eto'o was always going to be a tall task, but Eidur Gudjohnsen is not the answer. He is a fine player, but much more of a deep-lying striker these days. Barça could pay a steep price for not bringing in a genuine goal scorer to replace the departed Henrik Larsson over the summer. ...
Any game now, Alex del Piero will score his 200th goal for Juventus. It's quite a milestone in a day and age when players rarely stick with the same club for more than a few seasons. His critics (myself among them) say he hasn't been at his best since the horrific injury he suffered some eight years ago. Yet throughout his career he has been a gentleman, a model professional and a guy who just soldiered on and continued scoring and winning trophies. He's a class act.
Updated on Thursday, Oct 19, 2006 1:00 pm EDT
In my classes in Germany, there was this Sports and History class. In that class, I learnt that in England, players were allowed to bodily push goalkeepers into the net along with the ball the goalkeeper was holding, and that would be a goal scored if both goalkeeper and ball falls into the net. That was only outlawed in the 20th century.