Shaz Rahman on tackling

Special guest column this morning.  Shaz wrote this a while ago but I’ve been waiting for the right moment to post it.  The aftermath of a busy encounter against Stoke City seems like that moment, particularly with Tony Pulis drawing attention to Pavel Pogrebnyak’s enthusiastic tackle (*cough* glass houses *cough*). Anyway, here’s Shaz:

The sending off of Kompany of Man city against Man United sparked a debate about tackling in football. Kompany won the ball without taking the man but his tackle was deemed reckless as both of his feet were off the ground. The tackle can be seen here

In the games that have followed that Manchester Derby there have been countless tackles that have aroused concerns because they have been deemed to have been worse than Kompany’s tackle but had received lesser punishments. Pundits and fans are calling for consistency.This is a difficult thing to ask. A common misconception within the English game is that a tackle is legal as long as it wins the ball. In the actual rule book there is no mention of taking into consideration of winning the ball or not in deciding whether a tackle is a sending off offence or not. If you have a look at the actual law the Fifa law 12 states:

“A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any
of the following seven offences:
• serious foul play
• violent conduct
• spitting at an opponent or any other person
• denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring
opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply
to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
• denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent
moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a
free kick or a penalty kick
• using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
• receiving a second caution in the same match

“Serious foul play” is relevant to tackling. Serious foul play should lead to a red card. So the obvious question is what is serious foul play?  The guidelines make the distinction between “reckless” which is a yellow and “excessive force” which is a red card offence.
“Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent

• A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned.
“Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the
necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.
• A player who uses excessive force must be sent off.

Once again the distinction between “reckless” and “excessive force” is up to interpretation and can differ from referee to referee. A bit more help is offered with this:

“A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or
brutalityagainst an opponent when challenging for the ball when it
is in play.
A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned
as serious foul play.
Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from
the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with
excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty
of serious foul play.”

I remember watching the 1998 World Cup where quite a few players got sent off for slide tackling from behind irrespective of whether they won the ball or not. Fifa had clearly briefed referees that a slide tackling challenge from behind was deemed to endanger the safety of an opponent. The English pundits bemoaned the crackdown of tackling of which was to them a bastion of the game that should be protected. I was left confused as I did not know the actual rules. Slide tackling from behind is now much rarer in the game and rightly so according to my interpretation of Law 12. A slide tackle from behind can very easily injure an opponent thus I agree that it should be a red card.

Going back to the incident that has caused so much debate (theKompany red card). If you watch the tackle Kompany lunges at the ball using both feet with Nani in close vicinity also trying to win the ball. Kompany does connect with the ball with one foot and does not touch Nani. In the highlights the commentator mentions that he won the ball cleanly. Once again, whether Kompany won the ball or not does not matter. He lunged with both feet at an opponent. Nani was able to adjust and jump out of harms way. On another occasion Nani might not have been able to get out of the way of the studs of Kompany. The challenge definitely endangered the safety of Nani.

This tackle highlights the ignorance of the rules in the English game. Very dangerous tackling is seen as an acceptable norm in English Football and it should not be. Dangerous tackling can cause avoidable injuries, sometimes career ending. The game English game should not tolerate it like we do. The Guardian’s Secret Footballer recently wrote an article about how slide tackling in England was counter productive because if you do not win the ball you are temporarily out of the game. He says that slide tackling should become “an action of last resort.” I completely agree with his assessment. The English mentality to accept actions that are not only dangerous, but can easily be detrimental to the team should not be seen as a good thing.

The Laws of the game Page 33

“The Secret Footballer: It is time we gave up on our tackle obsession”

9 thoughts on “Shaz Rahman on tackling

  1. A good post and one that deals with the most irritating of British sporting traits – that dangerous tackling is fair and ‘getting the ball’ means everything. The fact that so many journalists, televisions pundits and even managers do not know the exact rules of the game is so poor.

    With regards to tackles from behind, I thought that Palacios’ tackle on Dempsey was awful because it was so clearly aimed at stopping the counter attack. This is usually fine, if it is a push or a tug of a shirt, but the tackle could very easily have broken Dempsey’s ankle a la Zamora last season.

    Interestingly on MOTD2 last night, Phil Neville made the point that he knows exactly what the FA want in terms of tackling, and it was easy to understand. Yet the usually good Lee Dixon, a man who has not played for 10 years, jumped in and said that the rules were not clear at all. A changing of the guard in relation to understanding tackling perhaps?

    1. “With regards to tackles from behind, I thought that Palacios’ tackle on Dempsey was awful because it was so clearly aimed at stopping the counter attack. This is usually fine, if it is a push or a tug of a shirt, but the tackle could very easily have broken Dempsey’s ankle a la Zamora last season.”

      It’s important to remember, I think, that the rules say:
      “Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the
      necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.

      The media is great at foaming at the mouth when a player actually is injured (take the tackle that injured Eduardo a few years ago, for example), but not at recognizing that the same *action* by an offending player should be punished equally even if the player who got fouled was able to avoid an injury. Dempsey was OK, as it turned out, but that tackle by Palacios could easily have caused a serious injury.

  2. Good post Shaz. I have long been uneasy about players going off their feet like this. It is one thing to lunge at the ball, but another entirly when you are aiming at an opponent with the ball. Once launched, the tackler has little control. This was well illustrated at Stoke two seasons ago when Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken. Ramsey was on his feet and therefore in control, jinked to one side and was taken out by the tackler who was already in the air and effectively an uncontrolable missile. It was made worse by the tackler keeping his leading leg rigid and slightly high.

  3. The Kompany challenge was a definite sending off for me. A potential leg breaker. I really don’t like those scissor motion style challenges. Karl Henry is quite fond of them though.

  4. What continues to make me laugh is that you can get sent of for “profanity” or what used to be called “violence of the tongue” as well as inappropriate gestures. What I see when I watch by 5-8 matches every weekend is 90% of fouls, throw-in decisions, and offsides calls reacted to with a dismissive wave of a hand and the clearly shouted English phrase “fuck off.” I am convinced it is the first English phrase any foreign player learns.

    Players and managers refusal to abide by these restrictions and officials’ refusal to penalize them, makes the rules AND the respect campaign even more of a joke.

    New topic: anyone remember what egregious violation of the spirit of the game resulted in a huge amount of yellows in 2006?

    1. true. All it’d take is a yellow for every act and it’d soon stop. I think it has got better since the whole “only teh captain can really have words” rule but it’s a good point.

      1. nope … kicking the ball away after a change of possession. Most of the dismissals I saw during that tournament were second yellows — the first of which were received for that egregious foul.

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