Gareth Bale doesn’t need protection from Premier League defenders, he’s in need of greater protection from referees who continue to make incorrect decisions involving him and so are tarnishing his reputation by accusing him of ‘diving’ and so by association of being a “cheat”.
Life is full of ups and downs as Gareth Bale is again discovering. Having made headlines with his match winning hat-trick against Aston Villa, he now finds himself the centre of attention having been booked at Sunderland for ‘simulation’. This is his third yellow card for ‘diving’ in recent weeks and brings his yellow cards to five and an automatic suspension for the New Year’s Day match at home to Reading.
Controversy – Justice for Bale
The only controversial moment in the game with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light came ten minutes from the end. It was the booking of Gareth Bale for ‘diving’ in the penalty area. Emmanuel Adebayor had played Bale into the area and as the Welshman went past Gardner, the defender’s knee made contact with the back of Bale’s leg. Bale went down expecting a penalty but Martin Atkinson in his wisdom decided to issue a yellow card to Bale for ‘simulation’.
Bale has been booked for ‘diving’ on three times since the end of November but on each occasion there was contact – he was fouled and so incorrectly booked. He was booked against Liverpool when Daniel Agger brought him down and against Fulham in the next match when Sidwell made contact.
Bookings can not be appealed so Tottenham and Bale have to accept the situation. If Mr Atkinson, however, having seen the replays realises his error of judgement, he should acknowledge it, hold up his hands and say,” I was wrong.” The booking won’t be rescinded but at least the official would be taking a step to righting the wrong of tarnishing Bale’s reputation.
Let’s get this straight from the outset; Gareth Bale did not dive in the incident when he was booked in the match against Sunderland. He therefore should not have been booked and should not be missing the game against Reading. The slow motion replays clearly show that the defender pushed his knee into the side of Gareth’s as he raced past him. This unbalanced him and would make anyone stagger. The ball had already passed the defender and was still under Gareth’s control. In addition to that, the defender placed his arm across Gareth’s chest, impeding him. This may have been deliberate. If it was, Tottenham should have had a penalty. If the referee feels it was not deliberate, then he is perhaps at liberty not to penalise the defender but there is no justification in penalising Gareth whatsoever. It does not matter whether he stumbled and kept going or did a triple somersault with pike because the impact had already taken place. Gareth was not pretending he had been hit; he had been hit, on the knee and chest. For me, that does not mean we should be berating the referee. Anyone can make a mistake. It is unfortunate though that this has apparently happened to Gareth 3 times recently. He is getting a reputation that is not deserved. The referee or an independent panel should be allowed to review the video evidence and admit he made a mistake, or invited to explain how the two points of contact without getting near the ball did not count. The yellow card should be rescinded.
Just to prove this is not just a Tottenham fan’s partisan rant, Jermain Defoe’s dive into the penalty area was just that. He had not been touched. Whether he lost his balance or did it to gain unfair advantage is for the referee to judge. If he thought it was deliberate, we could not complain about a yellow card for Jermain.
Retribution came swiftly
In every match, Bale and Lennon are unceremoniously brought down as they break into the opposition half. The defender takes the booking with a wry smile, knowing that he had done his bit for the team to prevent a possible goal against them. Rarely from the resulting free-kick do Spurs get any benefit, although yesterday, for once, retribution came swiftly with Cuellar’s own goal from the corner conceded after the free-kick. It was pay back time.
Both Bale and his manager, Andre Villas-Boas, spoke on the issue after the Sunderland game and previously former Tottenham star, David Ginola, supported the Welsh midfield player.
Bale defended himself when saying,
“It’s the same thing every time. It’s the third time I’ve been clipped this season and I’ve been booked for no reason again. It’s one of those things. There’s nothing I can do about it. Referees have to look closer I think. If people kick me I’m not going to stop going over as it is a foul.”
Andre Villas-Boas stated at his post-match press conference,
“It’s extremely unfair. It’s obviously a mistake from the referee. Decisions are difficult to be taken when the player is so quick. The problem is that there is some kind of persecution against Bale. Every time he is fouled people have to think twice and today it was the wrong decision.”
Referees fail to realise or take account of the point that when Bale is running at pace, the slightest touch will knock him off balance. As David Ginola said,
“You don’t need a big tackle to go down. A little push would be enough to lose the balance.”
It’s time that the referees took this into account before making their decision. If Bale continues to be hounded, he could decide that he would be better off playing in Spain or somewhere where he he might receive greater protection from the officials. If he were to decide to go, sooner rather than later, he would be a great loss to Tottenham and the Premier League.
David Ginola has previously called for players like Bale to be given greater protection by referees.
“Football is about entertainment. When you have players like that who entertain you week in, week out, you have to protect that. It’s so precious.”
Will Mr Atkinson acknowledge his error of judgement. “No!” Like Mr Dowd (Liverpool match) and Mr Foy (Fulham) before him, he will say nothing.