Saturday, April 04, 2009


Get Over the Elbows

The early dismissal of Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini in this week's World Cup qualifier against Ireland was another reminder that referees badly need to develop some common sense in the matter of raised elbows. Cristiano's similarly absurd red card in the A-League grand final leapt immediately to mind.

Commenting on the red card for Pazzini at half-time, SBS's Tony Palumbo made two salient points: firstly, that if players are to be dismissed for such "offences" then there's hardly any point going up for a header at all. Secondly, that Pazzini would almost certainly not have been sent off but for the blood pouring from John O'Shea's gashed face.

Yet the appearance of blood does not necessarily indicate that an offence has been committed. Countless small cuts are endured when players go up for a 50-50 aerial ball, and the heads collide (this is one of the reasons why I suggested a fundamental change to the game's rules in a piece some time ago).

I repeat what I wrote in regard to the Cristiano incident: when going up for a header, some thrust from the elbows to give extra elevation is absolutely normal, and indeed necessary. Unless the elbows are swinging wildly, or the player has clearly targeted the head of an opponent, there is no way that such arm movement should attract any sanction. As Craig Foster correctly pointed out, Pazzini could not have even had O'Shea in his line of vision when he went up for the ball.

It's a cliché, of course, but it's an apt comment in this case: refs must know the game as well as just the rules.

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