I was delighted to see Vincent Kompany’s red card rescinded this week. Not in any sort of ‘the game’s gone to pot’, reactionary, Alan Hansen sort of way. In fact, I found the whole debate surrounding the incident pretty tiresome.
A single slide tackle suddenly pits namby-pamby modern football against the good old days when violence was apparently sociable. No, I was happy because it demonstrated a clear intent from the FA, at long last, to treat officials like men and not machines.
The verdict says to Mike Dean ‘sorry mate you got that one wrong, no big deal’ which I find refreshing. The FA establishes an acceptable grey area in between the black and white realm of rejecting appeals and demoting officials.
Standing by their man has always drawn negative press for the FA, whilst the decision to remove an official from duty after a high-profile blunder only heightens already excessive pressure.
Now it seems the anonymous lawmakers of English football have begun to acknowledge genuine human error.
Kompany’s challenge, though on balance a superb one, was open to interpretation. My instant response, which has been subsequently smothered in the blurring swirl of endless replays, was that it was a bad foul, one that stretched the limits of a yellow card, about 75% of a red but not severe enough for a dismissal.
It also seemed, in the event of a 75% of a red card challenge occurring, Dean could not help but round that percentage up due to the power of inevitable subconscious bias.
The undeniable whisper of guilt which followed (correctly) sending Laurent Koscielny off, as is the case with all early dismissals, clearly weighed on Dean’s mind, rendering any decision that led to a level playing field a desirable outcome. To reference a good tweet I saw, Kompany’s late red “unruined the game” following Koscielny’s early on.
Expecting the impossible
Understandable as Dean’s mistake was, he has been blamed in the aftermath for ‘leading football down the wrong track’ with his seemingly pedantic anti-tackle stance. Following Alan ‘Bond villain’ Hansen’s lead, I think everyone’s taking it far too seriously. Call it for what is was, an easy mistake made under the pressure of an 80-minute howl from home fans.
I bet the majority of people who saw that challenge initially called a foul. As much as we may hope for it, referees will never be able to surmount unanimous, intimidating vehemence in the crowd any better than the rest of us could, they will never be the PE kit wearing, Hawkeye incarnate ubermen the game demands. So let’s stop expecting the impossible.
I was always told two wrongs do not make a right, and bar the odd admittedly distorted example, that has generally held true over time. That phrase however is essentially the opposite of a referee’s mentality. The likelihood of winning a penalty goes up drastically if you concede one.
Whenever a corner is very dubiously awarded, an imaginary foul is duly spotted and a free-kick given. That’s just a referee’s logic, a specific strand of human nature. Whilst those mistakes cannot be eradicated during the game, upholding them after the fact ignores the clear psychological impositions of the job.
Some say that Kompany’s successful appeal – the fourth in a month after Carlton Cole, Darron Gibson and Steven N’Zonzi – undermined the referee. For me, that explanation is all too mired in football’s wretched blame culture. I prefer to look at the recent spate of rescinding as the rehumanisation of men we have forged into robots through a relentless insistence on standardisation.
Determining that Dean simply called the Kompany decision wrong accepts that referees, like footballers, and all other people for that matter, get things wrong, and it’s no big deal when they do.
Acknowledging the fallibility of officials will hopefully begin to lessen the immense burden on them. This is just about the most sensible FA ruling I can remember.
Written by Chris Smith
Follow him on Twitter @cdsmith789
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