A lot of people in Barbados might not be aware of an horrific incident in England last week. During a football match between Arsenal and Birmingham, Martin Taylor of Birmingham tackled Eduardo da Silva on the shin bone and broke his leg. The video and pictures below are not mine nor are the views in it, but the images made me wince. As a former player, I knew that I was always one tackle away from a bad injury, yet somehow I got away with nearly 35 years of high level play with no breaks, torn hamstrings, many ankle sprains, and one removed cartilege (worn out joints late in my career), and now knees that need a lot of care but still function quite well. My worse experience came from mild concussion after a goal keeper and I collided and I crashed head first into a goal post.
You can see from discussions in The Times that opinions in England are really divided about the "crime", the punishment, how to try to eliminate such occurrences, etc.
A lot happens on the field and the only authority that matters is the match referee (aided by his assistants). However, referees have enormous discretion, and their actions are really only governed by the administrative bodies--FIFA and The Premier League, for example. Action taken on the field often does not seem to fit the offence (yellow or red card to cover all offences, some relatively minor (entering field without permission) some major (spitting or hitting an opponent), but that is a weakness of how football has developed, and its unwillingness to break its traditions. It does not have graduated penalties (e.g., yardage losses (like in American Football) or time in a "sin bin" (as in ice hockey or rugby), or a host of officials to cover the playing area. It uses technology to a very limited extent to review plays during a match or afterwards to correct mistakes or confirm decisions. Calls for that to change have been met with somewhat lukewarm responses.
I also know that if you play at a high level in England coaching there involves learning how to tackle very hard, and how to tackle "at the limit" of legality--it's a fine line.
Having also been a long time spectator from my youth, then coaching youth and adult teams, plus and a qualified referee I have seen most things that the sport has to offer and can understand the spread of views. Football is perhaps the most emotional of games for players and spectators. I think it remains the only professional sport that has sparked wars, when El Salvador and Honduras went to war in 1969, after a football game was the final spark between two countries with very different political outlooks and a lot of tension between them.
No conclusions from on this incident, which sparked Arsenal's manager to call for a lifetime ban for Taylor, but then he backed away from that. The offending player got an immediate red card and will face a several game suspension. I feel for Eduardo, who will have to wait nine months to recover. He will miss playing for Croatia in the Euro Championships later this year, which was probably on his calendar as a high point. Now he can look forward to just watching on TV. That's a really tough break.
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