Last week’s Champions League clash between Manchester United and Real Madrid was one of those occasions where most would have loved to hear referee Cuneyt Cakir’s reasoning for sending off Nani. Maybe UEFA need to have a once-over with all their referees over what is and what isn’t a sending off offence. Maybe we all do too, as the majority of the football world remains a little off centre with regards to the laws of the game.
It didn’t excuse Rio Ferdinand’s behaviour following the final whistle, though. Or maybe it did. Maybe he was as wound up as the larger percentage of Old Trafford were. Maybe he was as stunned as everyone else that the sarcastic applause just came naturally.
It wasn’t funny, either. How many other clubs in Europe have been burned by the ineptitude of UEFA referees? At the same time, how many players and managers have been unable to escape the hand of justice from European football’s governing body?
You have to ask where the consistency in all this is. Where is the ‘respect’ campaign and the need for UEFA to show a little backbone to the bigger clubs in the game?
It’s one thing to agree with Ferdinand for his reaction, as sarcastic applause would have been the very least that most would have done if they’d have been within arm’s reach of the referee on the night. However, it’s something completely different to want to see every club in Europe come under the same rule book in terms of what’s acceptable in game.
UEFA have opened up a can of worms. Again. Yet this time they’ve done it without actually doing anything.
What was the previous big call they made which was highly questionable? Luiz Adriano of Shakhtar Donetsk received a one-match ban for unsportsmanlike behaviour after his goal against Nordsjaelland. That was controversial. Are UEFA going to hand out that same punishment every time a player does something that we’re not too keen on? Adriano’s goal was well within the rules of the game, but UEFA decided to act on the grounds of morality.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have also been caught in the crosshairs of UEFA for the past two seasons, first picking up bans and fines following the highly contentious sending off of Robin van Persie in the Camp Nou, and once again after last season’s 3-0 win against AC Milan at the Emirates. Arsenal fans may feel Michel Platini and his lot are out to get Arsenal and have a personal vendetta against Wenger. But if UEFA feel action was necessary in both of those cases then fine.
The lack of action against Ferdinand, however, can only really show a sinister side of the game. What do we take from his sarcastic applause being pardoned? Either that clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona, as many including Jose Mourinho will attest to, are above the law, or that UEFA pick and choose when they want to exert their power.
Once again, it’s not a personal campaign to get Ferdinand banned for any length of time come next season. Instead, it’s a need to see a great deal more consistency from UEFA and perhaps a little clarity too. Why didn’t Ferdinand’s behaviour warrant any follow-up punishment but Didier Drogba swearing into a camera did? Roles models swearing in front of an audience, many of whom are impressionable youngsters, is unacceptable, but so too is quite publicly belittling a referee’s decision, even if it was the wrong call.
It will be interesting to see what UEFA’s action will be the next time an incident like that occurs again. Fair play and the ‘respect’ campaign being played out by clubs and players and the governing bodies and those who are untrusted to enforce the laws of the game.
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