Among the unwritten rules of football, whether in the village or on the English Premier League, is that a player must remonstrate with the referee whenever the match official reaches into his pocket for a card.
The referees also seem to obey another rule that forbids the reversal of a decision or a return of the card to the pocket once retrieved.
A while ago, while watching a rugby match between the Springboks and the All Blacks (that’s the South African and New Zealand teams, in case you did not know), a friend who could pass for a soccer fanatic pointed out something.
Whenever a player got involved in a foul, the referee would summon the captain and warn him about it. If the player repeated the foul, the referee would call him aside and have a word of two.
Because the ref’s mic is connected to the broadcasting system, we once heard him tell the player he would not entertain any more talk from him, and the matter ended there.
The player did not raise his hands or scream “Fuck You” a la Wayne Rooney, and neither did he try to use his size (he was twice the size of the ref) to intimidate the man.
In other words, in rugby the referee is a respectable gentleman, who is actually respected by the players even when he makes the rare wrong call.
The other notable aspect about rugby is that a yellow card earns the player 10 minutes off the pitch two minutes in seven-a-side rugby, meaning there is a direct and often palpable effect on the team’s performance.
There’s nothing of the sort in football, where players are free to kick and break their opponents as much as they wish provided they don’t do it too hard and too often to deserve the red card.
In rugby, Luis Suarez, the Uruguay man who cost Ghana a place in the semis of the World Cup, would have gotten its team what it deserved.
In rugby, if a player commits a professional foul on another clearly bound for the try-line, the offended team is awarded the try –five points- and given the chance to convert a really easy penalty. The result of a professional foul on a try-bound player therefore comes to eight points.
In football, as the Suarez affair showed, the result of a flagrant foul on your team might just be progress to the next round with the chance of getting some silver, like Uruguay nearly did. It’s clearly bullshit that sinners should be so well paid.
The point of all this is that football should really grow up.
Rugby can assist get the players to respect the referee, make the punishment harsher for intentional offences by having an effect on the team.
I’m sure some fans would not mind a rule that allows the referee to have a selected fan shoot offending players between the eyes.