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When is a penalty not a penalty?

When is a penalty NOT a penalty?

Answer: When the referee doesn’t give it.

Let me quote to you from the Fifa Laws of the Game so as to avoid any confusion.

Law 14 (The Penalty Kick) states:

“A penalty kick is awarded against a team that commits one of the ten offences for which a direct free kick is awarded, inside its own penalty area and while the ball is in play.”

Okay, simple enough. Most people know what the ten offences are. In case you don’t I’ll list them here for you.

  1. Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  2. Trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  3. Jumps at an opponent
  4. Charges an opponent
  5. Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  6. Pushes an opponent
  7. Tackles an opponent (although I think this should read – fouls an opponent)
  8. Holds an opponent
  9. Spits at an opponent
  10. Handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).

The penalty we witnessed on Tuesday night at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit in the Ghana v Burkina Faso semifinal game of the Afcon was definitely one of those.

It was a deliberate and blatant trip on Jonathan Pitroipa of Burkina Faso just three minutes from the end of the second period of extra time and the referee was close enough to see it.

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For some unknown and inexplicable reason, the referee, Mr Slim Jedidi from Tunisia, thought otherwise and decided instead to caution (yellow card) the unfortunate and very surprised Burkina Faso player.

As a result of this booking, which was his second in this game, he was red carded and will miss the final.

This, in my opinion, is a travesty of justice and I can see an appeal coming from the aggrieved team.

I’ve said many times in the past that I don’t criticise match officials having been one myself for many years. I know the difficulties that can be faced when one takes up the whistle. However, I do criticise them for what they are NOT doing rather than what they ARE doing.

The big problem here is that the conspiracy theorists are having a field day. There was also a “dubious” penalty in the Nigeria v Zambia game at the same stadium. Is there something in the water down there?

All of this comes on top of a major match-fixing scandal in Europe, which was divulged by Europol, the European police force charged with exposing corruption in sport.

It also follows on from the match-fixing allegations involving Bafana Bafana leading up to World Cup 2010. Just this morning a report has come out of Australia stating that doping is widespread across a number of sports there.

  • What’s happening to our sport?
  • Why is this happening?
  • Where does this leave us?

In a very precarious, vulnerable and embarrassing position I would say.

Corruption has to be wiped out with immediate effect. It’s a cancer in our society and will destroy sport if it is not tackled head on.

What bowls me over is the fact that match officials (referees and their assistants) are also being implicated and this is sickening. The very people who are expected to be above reproach are alleged to be involved.

Anyone who is found guilty of any involvement in the fixing of games should be brought before the courts and the heaviest penalties should be dished out, including spending time in prison.

Then they should be banished from the sport for life without parole – period.

Happy Whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
twitter: @dr_errol

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