The Card Cheat

The departure of José Mourinho from the Premiership a few years ago deprived the English game of one of its best managers but also one of its few remaining characters. Fortunately, it hasn’t been too difficult to keep track of him, first at Inter Milan and now at Real Madrid. He was very much in the news again this week for allegedly urging two of his players to each pick up a second yellow card in the dying minutes of their Champions League rout of Ajax. In the 87th minute of the game, midfielder Xabi Alonso lined up to take a free kick from his own half. He took a long run-up, approached the ball, stopped, went back and then repeated these steps a few times. This action would have been understandable, if a little obvious, if his team had been only a goal up. But, Real were winning 4-0 and this made his deliberate time-wasting seem unusual. The Scottish referee had no option but to book him and, as it was his second yellow of the game, to then brandish a red card. Alonso accepted his sending off without protest and calmly walked off the field with evidence of a slight grin on his face

This bizarre episode was repeated a few minutes later when Real were awarded a goal kick in the final minute of the match. Unusually, goalkeeper Iker Casillas chose not to take the kick and left it for Real defender Sergio Ramos instead. Ramos, who was also on a yellow card, made a pantomime of pulling down his socks and then pulling them up before repeating his teammate’s earlier hesitancy as he took his time with the kick. Again, the referee ran over, booked him and sent him off as well. Like Alonso, Ramos did not dispute the card and even shook the official by the hand as he left the field! It was surely obvious to those at the stadium and watching on TV that there was a method to the Madrid players’ madness and further footage fuelled this conspiracy. Mourinho was seen engaged in a frantic discussion with Alonso on the sideline prior to his second booking and reserve goalie Jerzy Dudek also had a conversation with Casillas before Ramos saw red. Mourinho and his players denied any wrongdoing afterwards, but it’s hard to see them getting out of this one

Mourinho and the four players in question have been charged with improper conduct by UEFA and will have to answer the charge next Tuesday. The actions of the players and the manager appear to be yet another example of the blatant cheating and flagrant disregard of the rules that mars nearly every football game these days. Mourinho knew that Real were through to the next round and that the last game would be a dead rubber. He knew he wouldn’t have to play these two players in the final group game and it’s highly likely that he hatched the plan late in the game. By sacrificing the two players in the final minutes of a match that had been long won, they could serve their suspensions in a meaningless game that they may not even be involved in anyway. He bent the rules to wipe out the players’ yellow cards and give his team an advantage in the next round. It also means that if either player is booked in a knockout game it will also deprive their next opponent of a possible advantage

It could be argued that the Madrid players and their coach were not really being deceptive as they made little effort to disguise what they were doing. It is to their credit that they didn’t get sent off by fouling an opponent and possibly causing an injury to an Ajax player. The fact that they were 4-0 up meant that their time-wasting only prevented the Dutch side from scoring a consolation goal. In terms of cheating, it’s not really up there with those infamous handballs by Thierry Henry, Diego Maradona and Luis Suarez, who was actually the Ajaz captain on the day. His protests to the referee concerning Alonso and Ramos seemed a bit rich considering his actions against Ghana at this summer’s World Cup. If anything, the incident shows that Mourinho is far more clever than anyone at UEFA and his cleverness may force them into bringing in new legislation. It also highlights the pointlessness of dead rubbers and the disparity between certain teams at this stage of the competition. The Champions League final will be played at Wembley this season, so here’s a song by The Clash about another card cheat from their London Calling album

The Card Cheat – The Clash

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4 thoughts on “The Card Cheat

    • With the weather we have here, Webbie, you’d need your coat. I see that Mourinho got away with a ban and a fine and the lads with a fine, but they’ll all be fine for the knockout stage. A nicer result for Real than at Barcelona

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