Saturday, April 21, 2007


A Bit More Cheating, Please

Everyone’s talking about Lionel Messi’s goal in Barca’s recent Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe, and justifiably so. It was a stunning, romantic solo goal, worthy (as just about every football journalist seems to have noted) of Diego Maradona at his peak. And this time, the star of the show got the final touch himself – a close look at Maradona’s magnificent slalom against England in the 1986 World Cup will reveal that it ends up being an own goal by a certain former Sydney FC manager.

I’d like to comment here, however, on a remark made by Getafe’s manager, the former Barca playmaker Bernd Schuster, following the game. Deploring the fact that Messi was able to reach the 18-yard box unimpeded, Schuster castigated his defenders for refusing to flout the rules of football:

“We should have fouled him, he can't be allowed to reach the area like that,” said Schuster.

I’ve made my feelings about such attitudes clear in the past, and they haven’t changed.

What on earth is wrong with saying “we should have put in a tackle at some point”? The implication of Schuster’s comment seems to be that brilliant players can only be stopped by illegal means, and therefore should be.

Let’s not mince words. Fouling a player due to mistiming a tackle is illegal but understandable. Fouling a player deliberately with intent to prevent him continuing the play is cheating, pure and simple.

Now Schuster might encourage that sort of thing in the dressing-room if he feels it will bring his team success, but does he really need to air it in public? It’s undignified, and does discredit to the game.

What made Schuster’s rebuke particularly futile, in my view, was that at least three Getafe players did try their best to foul Messi before he scored!

Yet score he did, and it’s a goal to treasure. Eidur Gudjohnsen’s reaction, from his position on the left wing, was touching; he simply held his hands to his head in a gesture of astonishment and admiration. You don’t often see that from a player, as opposed to a fan…a measure of just how good the goal was.


I guess it depends, how you see the roll of the coach, and the roll of the defender.

We had a discussion about a similar topic in the MVFC forum, the question was would you want your team to win with cheating or would you prefer to see them lose.

Most of the forumites that grew up watching football in South America and Italy would rather their team cheat and win, most people that grew up in Australia would rather lose.

I grew up watching football in Argentina, Uruguay and Israel. in all 3 countries if a striker dribbled pass 2 player the third defender was expected to trip him. In fact the entire crowd would yell "bring him down" and a defender that did not would be in serious trouble from the coach.

So although I understand the rationale of your argument, the coaches reaction seems natural to me.
I understand the coach's point of view completely. He's paid to get results, after all. And FWIW I've been told to do the same thing in the past by some of my coaches.

What I question is whether it's a politic thing to say in public, especially when kids or newcomers to the sport would be listening/reading. It doesn't do much for the dignity of the game, IMO.
Firstly Mike, I utterly, utterly agree with you.

But I don't properly proper European football (though it's growing on my football psych) and I must thank you for even drawing my attention to this goal, and linking the U-tube clip. Wow, what a glorious spectacle. Beautiful. Beautiful.
It's more than fouling to stop a particular player. By committing a foul, play is stopped, giving the defending team the opportunity to regroup and get some more players down to help out. Sure a free kick is conceded, but compared to the almost guaranteed goal the defender can't really lose. Thirdly, a foul breaks up the game a bit, and can give the defence a chance to change the speed of the game.

P.S. I've committed such fouls in the past when I've been unshackled from the box. I see them as part of the game.
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