x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Better judgement needed to tackle issue of Jack Rodwell's red card

Genuine – and clean tackles – such as the one Everton's Jack Rodwell performed on Liverpool's Luis Suarez, need to be encouraged, not punished with straight red cards.

At the 1966 World Cup in England, Pele, arguably the greatest footballer in history, and his Brazil team, the holders, were kicked out of the tournament at the group stage.

In a game Brazil had to win against Portugal, the forward was immobilised by a brutal tackle from Joao Morais. It should have been a red card.

In those days there were no substitutes and Pele was forced to hobble around as "10-man" Brazil lost and went home.

No one wants football to return to the dark days when defenders were nicknamed "Chopper" and "Bite Yer Legs" and where creativity could be nullified by vicious tackling. Fifa's decision to introduce straight red cards for tackles from behind at the 1994 World Cup changed the game for the better.

But if legitimate challenges continue to be punished by red cards, football will turn into the non-contact sport many people believe it is already.

Take Jack Rodwell's dismissal in the Merseyside derby on Saturday, for example.

The Everton midfielder performed a perfectly timed tackle to dispossess Liverpool's Luis Suarez. To widespread astonishment, Rodwell received a straight red.

There were so many things wrong with the decision. It was not two footed; Rodwell's studs were not raised; he won the ball and at the point of contact, his foot was grounded.

The referee, Martin Atkinson, inexplicably deemed the tackle as dangerous and gave him a red card for serious foul play.

Disturbingly, Atkinson could not even claim he had an obscured view of the incident. It happened right under his nose and he still had no hesitation in brandishing a red card.

The high-octane nature of the derby only clouded the judgement of one person and that was Atkinson. His decision, after just 23 minutes, ruined the game as a spectacle. No wonder Rodwell kicked out in frustration as he headed down the tunnel at Goodison Park.

Suarez's reaction also left a lot to be desired. The Uruguayan striker went down writhing in apparent pain. His reaction was designed solely to influence the referee's decision. There has been plenty of talk about respect for referees, but how about respect between fellow professionals?

Suarez has enough skill to win a game single-handedly. He does not need to resort to play-acting.

twoods@thenational.ae