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Keep Calm and just play football

Can I just take a moment for to ask, no not ask, to strongly suggest two things? 

Football players. Calm down and play football 

Referees. Ref properly and if players don’t calm down, book or red them. 

Many years ago (1982 I think) I, along with the Unicol team enjoyed the hospitality of the Taupo Football club as we took out their New World Cup Labour weekend tournament. We even got a write-up in the Waikato Times. And we won it again a couple of years later. 

I also remember playing there, at exposed Shepherd Park, in a blizzard for Rotorua City. We could barely stand against the driving hail and wind and after the match we downed top-shelf spirits to try to thaw out.  

Taupo also kindly hosted a pre-season match for our Hamiton Wanderers team (versus Napier City) a few years ago. Putting on drinks and food too. Nice. 

So it was a little disturbing to hear of the weekends events in the two Taupo v Unicol matches.  The first, reserve match, left Unicol’s Antonni Hall with a leg broken in two places. After the game some harsh words on referees and opposition from Unicol management. 


A sight noone wants to see. The ambo on the pitch.

A leg broken in two places isn’t a trifling matter. Yes I know, we’ve all broken someone’s leg. In my case it was my best mate Rob’s, when I clumsily tripped over a ball in training, catching his leg at the same time. And me telling him to “walk it off” was probably a tad insensitive. But I did apologise, profusely, when the extent of his injury was known. 

And, belatedly, there was an apology from both the Taupo club and the player who meted out Saturday’s injury to Hall.  Good news. 

What’s not good news? That this kind of affair is not confined to just one club. It’s fairly common in football. Especially when it comes to local derbies. 

But seemingly it’s mainly confined to men’s football. I’ve never seen a ladies game descend to these depths. Fellas, take a look and learn.  

The tribal aspect, especially in the English game has been well documented. Sport can often be seen an outlet for controlled aggression in this era of no World Wars.  And when hands are shaken post-match, we can all go back to being friends. That’s got to be better than fighting wars, right? And it’s good to see the Taupo club have done the right thing by contacting Hall. 

When football it spills over to the point of vitriol, animosity and serious injury it is concerning. Referees and their staff can be a crucial factor in determining whether a match deteriorates like these two Taupo – Unicol games last weekend 

The refs and line-o’s (bugger, I still can’t call them assistant referees) copped some severe criticism regarding these games. I wasn’t there and have only heard this stuff second-hand but did try to contact the Taupo club to get their version of events. They haven’t replied. 

Unicol’s Robin Slade had this to say: 

“I was up at 3am on Sunday considering what else to say about Saturday, maybe I lack the wordsmith skills for what follows, but honesty counts for something surely.

I think good teachers deserve a pay increase, and bad or ineffective teacher should leave the profession.  I don’t think there is any difference with those who officiate football games.

So what to make of a referee who allows a player to tackle from behind and the side, snap a players leg in two places and then doesn’t dish out a red card, or a yellow, or anything? 

What do you make of a player who spends a game trying to break someones legs, watches their intended victim sub off so breaks the replacement’s leg instead? What do you make of a club that issues no apology for the disgusting actions of a player like that, or the player who just walks away thinking it is a job well done?

Will there be an investigation from those who run football in this area?  Will there be sanctions applied?

Don’t hold your breath.” 

Whow! That’s pretty harsh Robin. 

However he was backed up by spectator Stephen Field who said:

“We arrived at the match after the incident and were saddened to hear what happened and to watch the injured player lying on the ground waiting for an ambulance in the freezing cold. 

Field continued “Unfortunately the same sort of officiating occurred in the Unicol Prems game. We watched the referee not give free kicks to Unicol over 20 times right through the match. The fouls include basically rugby tackles……to stop Unicol players runs toward the goal. The referee did not issue a yellow card until 5 mins from the end of the game. The Taupo players knew they could get away with it and did.

It’s a shame because both teams played some really good football and it should have been a great game. I am by no way saying it was one sided as Unicol deserved the fouls they were pulled up on as well.  Had the ref stamped down on the silly and sloppy tackles early the game would have been a great spectacle. 

To finish, I was horrified to witness and hear the mocking of the Unicol coach by several of the Taupo players after the game.”



Antonni Hall. Recovering well (with the aid of KFC)

It’s sometimes unrewarding work, refereeing. I do it most Sundays in a so-called social league. I find if you try your darndest to be fair to both teams, it does tend to even up the bad decisions and teams also appreciate a ref who apologises for sometimes getting it wrong. 

Digressing, I’ve also developed a bad habit of making up new rules on the spot. Err’s my creative side? The rule where I arbitarily decide which team gets to kick off (without a coin toss) is a great time saver and should be put into the big Rule Book. (Maybe it’s in there already? I haven’t actually read it).  And if I’d been the ref on the day, I would been the first to applaud when young Webb-Ellis decided to pick up a ball and run with it, despite it leading to the invention of rugby. 

So I’m not calling for heads to roll over the Taupo game. And there are always two sides to an argument. Merely that, given the intensity of the feedback, maybe a discussion to all players and officials might be had? 

And that bit about “calming down”? My wife points out that “in the history of calming-down, no-one who has been asked to calm down has ever actually calmed down.“ 

So, just play football. And maybe take a look at the FIFA Women’s World Cup presently being played. I can guarantee there won’t any of these shenanigans.

Categories: Other Football Topics

Rod de Lisle

Waikato based Kiwi living the good life that this wonderful country affords. I like to paint, travel, follow sport and do stuff with our large family. Writing song lyrics is a creative release that came about after (somehow) dreaming a complete song. Not being a muso has lead me to seek out creative musicians who might enjoy linking music to my words. Is that you?

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