Why can’t we just have an honest game?

All as bad as each other
A controversial series of moments whereby no one comes out of it in any kind of positive way? Football’s back. Hurrah!
Let’s just make a few things clear: Alex Song stamped on Joey Barton. That was disgraceful. There was minimal contact on Gervinho in the penalty area late on but no where near enough to make him go down. It was not a foul. Joey Barton should not have reacted in the first place but what followed was ludicrous, steeped in hypocrisy and, if it wasn’t so disappointing, almost laughable.
Gervinho was naïve in raising his hands to Barton in any fashion – it might not be against the rules but everyone knows the raising of hands can be dangerous – and Barton should not have thrown himself on the floor as if, to use the old cliché, he’d been shot.
There is an argument that says there was contact in the Gervinho tackle and the ‘slap’ (it was actually more of a brush on the cheek) so both are entitled to go down: the referee and his assistants might not have seen the incident so going down helps make their decision. Barton has, seemingly, made this point on Twitter– although one assumes that he hasn’t actually seen the incident because, by my reading, he doesn’t believe there was any contact on Gervinho.
Now, while I do think that Gervinho was incredibly stupid to raise his hands, he should not have been sent off, in my opinion, nor should he have had a penalty – because there clearly wasn’t enough contact to make it a foul. If Gervinho and Barton had both stayed on their feet (a phrase which, by the way, is ruined thanks to Rio Ferdinand) there wouldn’t have been an issue.
Going to ground under minimal contact isn’t strictly conning the referee but it’s not completely honest either. And it’s certainly not good for the game. If the referee hasn’t seen an incident… then he hasn’t seen the incident. End of. Players should not have any involvement in their decisions. If it’s a foul, you’ll either fall to the ground or – at the very least – be stopped in a way that is clearly ‘illegal’.
The ‘slap’ wasn’t enough to send Barton to ground – indeed, some would say the slap wasn’t enough, full stop. Gervinho shouldn’t have been sent off but he has been – and will miss games – because of Barton sub-conning the ref. Gervinho shouldn’t have had a penalty so he’s just as bad. Somewhat ironically, Song should have been sent off and hasn’t been, although he could face disciplinary action later on from the FA because the referee didn’t see it. I’ll believe that when I see it.
The point is though, this situation – where we are somewhere between being helpful to the referee and just downright cheating – is completely nonsensical. Just let the referee get on with his game, and you concentrate on your game. The fact that Barton is hoisting himself up into some sort of hero status in all of this is pathetic and Arsenal fans calling Barton all manner of names when two of their players are just bad is just sheer, blind stupidity. Yes he’s in the wrong – but don’t heap all the criticism on to him and don’t let this detract from what was a ruddy awful performance against Newcastle.
Barton is being incredibly hypocritical when he has a go at Gervinho for diving, and maybe Gervinho does have a case for going to ground – but the issue just shouldn’t be there at all. The FA reaffirmed their ‘Get on with the game’ programme this week, focusing on such things as feigning injury and players surrounding officials – I’d add ‘highlighting’ a foul to that list.
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