Siddharth Saxena’s article in the TOI on the Arsenal vs Barca game

To repeat a cliche – Little knowledge is dangerous.

In today’s TOI, Siddharth Saxena comments on the Arsenal vs Barcelona game, and defends the referee, claiming that the criticism levelled against him is unwarranted because he was going by the rule book – given the challenge that Jans Lehmann committed againt Samuel Eto’o, the referrees decision was justified.

The problem is that Siddharth probably didn’t watch the game, and is probably relying entirely on articles he’s quickly skimmed through. No one, not Theirry Henry, not Aresene Wenger (“It looked a red card, it’s very difficult to contest,”…” “But my biggest regret was their first goal was offside.”), most football pundits – has criticised that decision.

What is not justifiable, and I say this as a neutral who was supporting Barca during the game, are the glaring oversights: Theirry Henry was fouled on numerous occasions, and one felt that most challenges warranted at least a free kick; quite a few warranted a card. At the other end, when Henry got the ball with a tackle that looked bad only because of the way the opposing player fell, Henry was unjustly carded. There was also an occasion where Deco pretended to having been fouled in spite of no contact, seeking a pentalty just around the box. The ref obviously saw that, and waved play on in a situation that on most occasions deserved a card. In the 2002 World Cup, it would have meant a straight red for “simulation”. Samuel Eto’o, for his sheer brilliance in front of goal, deserved that goal, but an offside is an offside.

I’m not disappointed much by the fact that Barcelona won and Arsenal lost. What disappoints me is the manner in which this match was won. Barca should have also been a man down for the fouls (the ref gave one player 3 chances before booking him), and an equal contest would have been thrilling. And of course, Mr. Saxena thinks everyone is criticising the obviously biased ref for the red card. The ref’s clarification and admittance of a mistake that wasn’t particularly glaring, but did have a far reaching impact, is just to divert attention from the fact that he was so blatantly partial. Siddharth doesn’t realise that:

But before we come to that, the referee – hardly the whistleblower, but merely a messenger of the men in suits – needs to be put in perspective. Even in the onslaught of criticism that Hauge will have to endure, and hence admit, like he has, that he erred in not playing the advantage off Lehmann’s foul on Eto’o, the point here is that the Norwegian was merely following the rule book to the T.

The Professional Foul, such a matter of debate and heartburn not so long ago, is outlawed by FIFA. And in the rule book, it is punishable with expulsion, which is what happened with the Arsenal goalkeeper. On the final one-on-one, the German halted Barcelona’s Cameroonian striker’s run when he had a clear shot at goal. As simple as that.

But why berate the referee? He was spot on in recognising the foul and acted in the manner that has been imparted to him. To expect him to play the advantage since it was a game of magnitude only mitigates the point. Would it have been okay had it been a first round tie? And had Hauge actually done that, the world would never have learnt, but he would have had to provide an answer to the stern, faceless body that surgically monitors every move, every action of the referee and comes down heavily in the event of any slip-up. But then, that precisely is the anomaly with the monitoring of a game that has its own complex plot, and doing it through FIFA’s black and white set of rules, honed to keep cheats in check. Entire World Cups are known to have fallen victim to this.

If interpreting the law was left to the referee’s discretion – and provided he was not trying to favour a particular side, as is emerging happened in Italy this gone season – maybe such allegations and counter-allegations will stop, and a final game will automatically become what it is, a finale, rather than it being desperately trumpeted as one.

I suppose that with the World Cup just around the corner, we’re likely to see many such hurriedly prepared, patchy articles on Football.

Update: I told you so.

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  1. Hello,first time on your was hard for me to digest that Professor agreed the red-card was hard.but about therefreeing decisions,no doubt they are in bad-taste.
    I can understand a professional-foul.but what about Eto acting up every now &then,and a few Bar(k)c players fallsing down as though bombs were exploding next to them.
    the goals were marvellous.a little doubt that Barca didn’t deserve to win.but Gunners were playing with 10 men against 12(count the ref) and add to that two men constantly trying to tap Henry’s foot.
    it’s very important to note that in games against Barca in UCL,players have been sent-off.Del-Horno dived as though Messi fouled him and that perhaps led to card.but what about Lehmann.He was out of the box and a miss from inside box isnt rare,even with open goal.add to that he wasnt’ in toto with the goal-post.
    With manager like R who has a history of bad-tempers behind him(remember the spitting incidents),Bar(K) no doubt play unsportingly.

  2. I don’t think the red card was all that wrong. But then i’m a Barca supporter. And weird that none of you menmtion the fact that Eboue faked a fall to get Arsenal their first goal. I mean that was blatantly fake. During the match, the pro-Arsenal commentary was frigging irritating.

    And Henry was fouled once or twice, but definitely not as much as he was whining about, and Arsenal wasn’t so far behind on the fouling charts.

    Plus the way Barca was battering the Arsenal defense, you can’t dispute the fact that they deserved the win. And Eto’o wasn’t offside. 😛

  3. Heh…everyone has their own bias. As a ManU fan, I do harbour a slight (Ha!) bias against Arsenal. If you remember last to last season, Porto was a club with a number of professional divers, with Deco amongst them. Negative Creep, I’m really disappointed with Barca, for the way they played. None of the skill that led to the Bernabau massacre this year was on display. Larsson and Iniesta were impressive, and Eto’o’s goal was good, but it *was* offside. I missed Eboue’s dive cause I had my back to the screen at that time, so cant comment on it. Of what I saw, and I say this as a neutral, I felt cheated cause a 10 vs 10 was definitely warranted given Barca’s challenges. Remember the 1, 2, 3 when the ref showed the yellow to a barca player who fouled Henry for the umpteenth time? Well, I wonder why Henry didn’t get that chance, in spite of the fact that his was a brilliant tackle that the ref booked him immediately for. You can’t deny the ref’s bias, man. And Bhushan – the red card wasn’t unfair, according to me. Like Henry said, the ref was in a Barca shirt.

  4. p.s.: That said, Barca earned their victory. And Arsenal earned a lot of respect, though it won’t do much good. I wonder if Henry would now be inclined to refuse Barca. Probably not.

  5. you say in your comment you are a neutral – but that was an article written with arsene wenger tinted glasses..the ref did fine, maybe Henry was fouled a little (get over it, it happens to every player) – but eboue was dirty and cheated to get a free kick. Arsenal should just be happy that after a crap season they have runners up medals.

  6. Nope. It wasn’t with Arsene Wenger tinted glasses. Never will be. If anything, I harbour a bias against Wenger and Arsenal. Inspite of my bias, I felt that Arsenal got the short end of the stick. And as I’ve stated in my comment, I missed the Eboue free kick.

  7. I agree Barca wasn’t at their best, and Ronaldinho seemed a bit off, some good passes, but not in full form. And yes, Arsenal did get cheated a bit, but it happens, and it wasn’t as big a deal as most make it out to be.

    P.S : I detest Arsenal and their fans, almost as much as i detest the whores at Chelski. Man U, and to a lesser extent, Liverpool are my EPL faves.

  8. Well, we have similar preferences, then. 🙂

    I love a good contest. That’s all. Liverpool are third or fourth on my list. My top 4 are ManU, Wigan, Everton and Liverpool.

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