Friday, 8 May 2009

Respect is a two-way street

Strange how football sometimes conspires to turn you against your most basic instincts. While deploring the moronic threats against referee Tom Henning Ovrebo following the Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League semi-final, I can't help feeling a bit sorry for the Blues. There, never thought I'd say that about the billionaires!  In truth, Barcelona are by far the better side, but on the night in question it's hard but to conclude that they would have lost if one of the two pretty solid penalty decisions had gone Chelsea's way. The referee did, I think, lack the experience needed for this particular sporting cauldron, and a number of his decisions - including the Barca sending off, too - were woeful. He was honest enough to admit that afterwards, and doesn't in any way deserve the calumny or abuse. 

That said, UEFA are being typically smug and aloof over the matter. Drogba and Ballack cannot finally be defended, but they are easy targets and are not the only problem to be tackled. You can't have players throwing abusive tantrums, but when the system itself, and the mistakes it makes or masks, seems immune to common sense, due humility and the exercise of proper discretion (no doubt for 'good' litigious reasons), the boiling point is bound to be reached more readily. Meanwhile, I very much hope that Scotland's Darren Fletcher is given a reprieve for the Champions League final, following his clearly erroneous red card and concomitant suspension in the Arsenal semi. This is one case where the 'no appeal' rule will result in a clear injustice if the officials do not relent. And no, I'm not a Manchester United sympathiser normally, either. I wanted Wenger's youngsters to win.  I doubt that decency will prevail in the Fletcher case, but this instance does give UEFA a chance to show that it can exercise a sense of natural justice. 

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