The pundits all over the place are having a go at Chris Foy for expelling Vincent Kompany for a challenge on Nani in the FA Cup match last weekend. Their lamentations are everywhere: "It's the end of tackling as we know it," says one. "It's ruining the game," shouts another. "The skill of tackling will disappear if this keeps up," chimes in a third. And today we learn that the disciplinary body has rejected the appeal by Manchester City, and has suspended Kompany for four games; three for the challenge plus one more for it being his second red card this season.
Herewith, the photographs. Let's take a look at the challenge in the cool, clear light of hindsight and dispassionateness.
1. He never touched Nani at all, because he jumped out of the way.
2. Kompany was not out of control, nor airborne.
3. Nani himself never appealed to the referee.
4. Kompany played only the ball, not the man. It was not even a foul.
As you can see, Kompany was airborne, and by definition, out of control. Besides which, the relevant infractions in Law 12 are ". . kicks or attempts to kick . . ", "jumps at an opponent", "tackles an opponent" . . "in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force". Even with no contact, it was a foul.
Indeed, Kompany did not kick Nani. But should a player have to jump out of the way of a careless or reckless challenge, which this effort clearly was? Nani's attempt to play the ball was destroyed by a necessary act of self-preservation, as he saw two sets of studs coming his way. Everyone can agree that if Nani had not jumped, he would have ended up on the grass screaming.
The facts of the matter are these: Kompany committed the foul of carelessly and recklessly jumping at an opponent with both feet, studs exposed in an attempt to kick him.
That part of the analysis is easy. The second part is not-so-simple: How do you punish it if you do decide to blow your whistle? Red or yellow?
There's a philosophy that's been around the game a long time in various incarnations. If you want to stuff or intimidate an opponent, do it early on, because referees will not take strong action too quickly, for fear they will be accused of ruining the game. At the same time, we know that if we don't take strong action when we see a bad foul, we are in effect giving the criminal permission to commit such a crime again.
When I saw Kompany go flying in on Nani last Sunday, I shuddered (until I saw Nani jump out of it), and said out loud: "That has to be at least a yellow!" Had I been down on the pitch, I don't know what my decision would have been.
But this I do know: The game is the better for the changes in the laws that have been made in the last decade or two. When acting as pundits on television, ex-professional players, no matter how brilliant they used to be, have to keep up with the changes and what they are intended to do. So their bleatings these last few days encounter my deaf ears.
From my geological career, I know that Iife on this planet has to adapt or become extinct; that's the basis of evolution. As a group, pundits ought to adapt a little quicker. It shouldn't take more than a generation to grasp the purpose of new laws.
Thanks to the comment from Brian Smith-White, I can add this picture, which shows how two-footed the jumping challenge was: