The Clemency Debate
A combined total of seven players will miss this years Champions League final. As is the case every year when players are suspended from a final, there is genuine empathy amongst supporters for those missing out.
With the exception of cases involving John Terry, no football fan wants to see a player miss what is arguably the biggest sporting match on the planet. Chances to play in a game of such magnitude are at a premium for even the best players in the world. Many a great player have failed to reach such a stage, whilst others, relatively mediocre players, have written their names into footballing history books by shining on such occasions.
The ideology of rendering all accumulated suspensions as void, leaving both teams to contend the final with full-strength squads sits well with romantasists of the game. Both teams have their slates wiped clean, leaving them to lick their war wounds and prepare for one final battle to be crowned kings of Europe.
Thankfully though, it is only a ideology favoured by misinformed football fans, fallen ex-players seeking public acclamation and bitter English FA officials who seem eager to jump on to any opportunity to criticise any other footballing body since they lost out to hosting the World Cup in “controversial” circumstances.
As an example, let’s take this years Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich semi-final to see how the game would have been affected with the new rule proposals enforced.
It was a truly remarkable match, and one that was contested in the true spirit of the game for 120 minutes. Going into the match, there were a combined total of eleven players, four from Real Madrid and seven from Bayern Münich, that were one booking away from a suspension. Although tough, it was a fairly contested match, with just seven bookings. That, I believe, was due to the fact that eleven players knew they had to be careful or risk missing out on a final.
To grant clemency to players for the final in such matches would turn them into boring, stop-start games, full of petulant free kicks and time wasting. There would be professional fouls any time a scoring opportunity arose as players, safe in the knowledge they would be granted amnesty should they reach the final, would happily tally up fouls until the clock ticked down.
Further to this, I don’t buy the argument that some players miss out on the final because of harsh yellow cards. A player isn´t suspended for one yellow card in the semi-final. It’s an accumulation of three bookings over the course of the knockout stages. It´s a fair process and one which players are aware of (in most cases Mr. Ivanovic) from the beginning of the tournament.
It is for these reasons that I hope the powers that be don’t succumb to the cries of the armchair-fan supporters, and instead, leave the best competition in football exactly as it is. It’s one thing in football that isnt broke, don’t fix it UEFA.