There’s surely only a smattering of people left, who will still contest Javier Mascherano’s red card at the weekend. Implausibly, one of those few is Mascherano himself, who obviously doesn’t believe that back-chatting the ref for forty five minutes warrants anything other than a sympathetic pat on the back. Perhaps Mascherano would have had a better shot of sympathy had he booked himself in for some more lessons on the English language. That way he may have at least been able to get his point over to the referee in a more articulate way than “fuck off, fuck off”.
The stupidity of Mascherano was further highlighted because in the days leading up to the fixture, all the talk was about the proposed clamp down on disrespect towards referees.
OK, when Mascherano received his second yellow, he only asked Steve Bennett “what is happening?” But look at the incidents preceding this and it’s clear he should have been sent off well before this. Let’s look at the evidence.
After he got booked for a tenth minute tackle on Paul Scholes, the Argentine continuously told Bennett to fuck off. A minute later he was still ranting with a frenzied grin on his face resulting in him resembling a manic ape and Bennett putting his fingers to his lips in a bid to keep him quiet.
After Anderson tripped Steven Gerrard in the fifteenth minute, Mascherano wielded an imaginary card signalling that he wanted the Brazilian booked.
A few minutes later and Mascherano was at it again after giving away a foul for an obstruction on Giggs. This time he turned his attention to the linesman pointing to his eyes and implying the official was blind.
More abuse was directed at the referee when Mascherano was reprimanded for a foul on Ronaldo. He continued to hold up imaginary cards and boil over about any decision given, even against United. When Torres was booked for dissent, just before half-time, the midfielder ran twenty yards to confront the referee. Only then was the red card shown. After that, it took the player over a minute to leave the pitch.
The stupidity of Mascherano was further highlighted because in the days leading up to the fixture, all the talk was about the proposed clamp down on disrespect towards referees. This followed Ashley ‘Nasty’ Cole’s behaviour when he turned his back on the ref in the Spurs- Chelsea match last Wednesday. I mean given the furore over that how stupid do you have to be.
Of course, people will argue that the Rooney and Terry’s of this world have got away with the same offence for years and they’d be completely right. But if the crackdown starts now, referees have to start being ruthless now.
However, they have to be consistent. If next week, Rooney confronts the referee in the same manner Mascherano did, he’ll have to be treated in the same manner. Referees have got to get it right and they’ve got to start being ruthless now.
It’s a poor reflection on the game when you have a high profile figure such as FIFA boss, Seb Blatter speaking out over Martin Taylor’s challenge on Eduardo, when really, it’s people like Mascherano ruining the game. Taylor’s tackle was terrible. However, it was accidental. Would people have reacted in the same way if the extent of the injury hadn’t been so severe? You see tackles like that every week. It’s part and parcel of a contact sport. Thankfully, you rarely see an injury of that degree.
I’d rather see the odd badly timed challenge than a player running twenty yards to argue with the referee, brandishing fake cards in an attempt to get their opponents booked.
It’s amazing how youngsters imitate their heroes. A piece of skill, a celebration, the way a freekick is taken – it’s all replicated by young players trying to play like their idols. Unsurprisingly, they also pick up bad habits – swearing, spitting, shouting at linesmen.
If we want to see order brought to the game – at grassroots level and upwards - referees need to be unswerving. They need to let players know that too much backchat will earn them a red card and they need to follow through on this promise. Just watch how quickly the players will learn how to shut their mouths.