By an anonymous guest poster
Imagine walking up for an attacking corner, taking your place in front of the keeper – in his space as nuisance factor if nothing else, as you have every right to be – when he puts his hand on your chest to push you away. You casually remove his hand from your chest before the referee rightfully intervenes to tell both parties ‘that is enough’. Then, as the corner is about to be taken, the keeper decides to grab your ass.
On Saturday afternoon, when a wondrous hard-fought quarter-final cupset should have been a reminder of why we play the game, we didn’t need to imagine such an incident. It happened.
At our level of social football, we are not often graced with the presence of neutral referees, so what followed was equally disappointing. The role of the referee, as I understand it, is to protect the players and control the game. With behaviour like this occurring, how could one feel protected? There was suspicion that the referee may have been in training, but that is neither here nor there.
For further context:
- Before the ball had been properly cleared from the corner, the referee said that she saw the incident.
- It took 7-10 minutes of pressing the referee to stop play and, at the very least, have a chat with the goalkeeper.
- The opposition players defended (and subsequently condoned) the behaviour of their keeper saying, ‘he was just trying to get some action’ and ‘it’s just a bit of banter, mate’. When asked why they were defending this kind of behaviour, they ‘thought (our) player was being sarcastic’.
- Our player was told to ‘move on’ and ‘stop carrying on about it’ by our opponents. This was not a common fifty-fifty foul. This was, for lack of a better term, assault.
- As we left the opposing clubrooms after a celebratory beer, one of our opponents piped up, ‘quick, grab his ass’. They still thought it was all a big joke.
To the referee’s credit, she came across at full-time to apologise for not acting sooner. She said she had seen nothing like it and was taken aback by what she had seen. As we waited for some kind of punishment – not to say what that may have even looked like – the referee kept assuring us that she would stop play. When she finally stopped play to talk to the goalkeeper, she asked him to apologise. The apology – if you could call it that – only came after she again asked him to.
The apology went like this:
‘I’m sorry, but you know … it was just a bit of back and forth.’ He continued to justify his behaviour like it was a part of the game. It makes you wonder if this kind of behaviour stems from the very fact most games at this level are refereed by the players themselves. A lot of nonsense goes largely unpunished. He then repeatedly said ‘it’s fine’ as though he was the one receiving the apology. It is not fine.
During this apology the goalkeeper was told, if this is part of the way you play football (or any sport for that matter), you need to change the way you play. It is inappropriate, unacceptable and unnecessary. There is no place for it and rather than condone it or support those who do it, it’s time to stand up to the people who overstep the mark.
This game, and any other, is for everyone.
[Just a precautionary note to reiterate that ITBOTN does not tolerate homophobia and as such any comments below that cross the line will be deleted. – Enzo]
Categories: Other Football Topics
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.