Scourge hits beautiful game

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

There is a malignancy that continues to grow in soccer around the world. If it is not cut out, it will throw the game into anarchy and disrepute.

A football match has become a battle between three teams, the two who stand to gain in the standings and the team of officials.

The antagonism between players, coaches and officials is a pot that threatens to boil over every match.

Players and coaches have made a habit of criticizing officials. Every loss seems to be placed at the feet of an official who made a dubious call. Rarely is the loss placed at the feet of the players, where it belongs.

For all the cheap talk coming from FIFA, UEFA, various governing bodies including the English Football Association about the need for respect, it is falling on deaf ears. Disciplinary bodies do not mete out severe enough punishments to stop the bickering and on-field antics of players and coaches. As a result, referees are afraid to mete out severe punishment on the field because of the criticism they'll take.

Before going further into the burgeoning war between officials and teams, what must be pointed out is that soccer is becoming a much more difficult game to call with only one referee on the pitch. It is also more difficult to officiate because so many players have become notorious cheaters, flopping at a mere touch, forever complaining about calls and begging for fouls. Then when a call is missed, they are the first to complain.

It smacks of the little boy who cried wolf. If you insist on play-acting, it will be more difficult for anyone to recognize when your actions are real.

It has become an embarrassment to watch, but obviously not embarrassing enough for the powers that be, who continue to allow it to happen.

The latest shot fired for effect has not come from a player or coach. The broadside was delivered by a referee and it scored a bull's-eye.

English Premier League referee Steve Bennett described the behaviour of managers and players being like "ravenous animals smelling blood.

"Regrettably, football - the sport acknowledged as the beautiful game - is tarnished when this type of behaviour occurs," Bennett continued. "Today, compounded by a general deterioration in social discipline, abuse of officials across the country results in fewer being prepared to take charge of matches."

The players obviously can't curb their behaviour. There is a sense of entitlement in which they can get away with anything.

Is there anything more odious that watching the official make a decision, then the game takes five minutes to proceed because there is a scrum of players surrounding the referee begging and pleading for him to change his call?

The childlike behaviour needs to be reeled in. What about a player 40 yards away from a play running up to the referee and demanding a player be carded?

Why is it that soccer is the only sport that allows officials to be abused? If what happens in soccer happened in basketball, hockey, football or baseball, there would be a long list of players sitting out suspensions.

Referees need to be consistent in their message. No arguing, no swarming, no delaying the game, no talking to the official unless you are a captain, no gesturing, no yelling at an official and no sign of disrespect. Those actions will be met with further sanctions, yellow and red cards, fines and suspensions.

It will be ugly for awhile but no uglier than it is now.

Teams that go down a man and face losing players to suspension will be forced to learn self-control.


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