It’s time to stop kicking the ball out of play
Barcelona’s equalising goal against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday sparked a real old furore because it stemmed from a Barca throw-in after the home side had apparently kicked the ball out of play because one of their players was injured.
The truth is, with players so apt to diving and other theatrics these days, the “player down” excuse for stopping the game should be defunct, as it thankfully now appears to be in England where only the referee decides when the game should be stopped.
Shakhtar can point to a situation in 1999 when an FA Cup match between Arsenal and Sheffield United was replayed after Arsenal scored a goal in similar circumstances.
But times have moved on and the “unwritten rule” has been routinely abused.
True, maybe one in 10 injuries really need urgent attention (a head injury or a horrific leg break when the gravity is immediately obvious), but the sight of a player rolling around on the ground in mock agony one minute, then miraculously bounding down the wing once the game has restarted, is cheating.
Injuries on the pitch should be dealt with by the referee and his assistants should they feel it is serious enough to stop the game. Better still, why not allow the physio on to the pitch to assess the injured player while the game continues, as they do in rugby?
Then if it really is serious, stop the game and have a drop ball.
It would put an end to “tactical” injuries and stop sides bending the rules to suit themselves. Shakhtar blame Barcelona for the incident, but they were the ones who conceded cheap possession and expected the ball back on a plate. Their player was not properly injured, so their argument is flawed.
On-field injuries are part of football, part of the fabric of the match and players should be prepared to deal with them. Should a tennis player slip and hurt his ankle during a rally, his or her opponent would be perfectly entitled to win the point before the umpire checks on the well-being of the player.
Once footballers know that rolling around exaggerating an injury will gain no advantage for their side, they will be more inclined to stay on their feet in the first place.
PHOTO: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi reacts after scoring a goal against Shakhtar Donetsk during their Champions League match in Donetsk Oct. 1, 2008. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich