Am I the only one despairing at the notion that Samir Nasri was ever likely to pick up a three match ban for stepping on Richard Garcia’s foot on Saturday? The suggestion that it constituted violent conduct in any way would have been laughable were it not for the fact that the media backlash could have made a ridiculous situation a reality.
Nasri walked over Garcia’s foot. It was stupid, petulant and designed to rile. Just like goading an opponent, squaring up to them, or doing that stupid rutting thing we see too often, it was petulant, childish, and deserved a yellow card, as all of those offences do.
Violent it most certainly was not. Had Nasri raised his foot to knee height and brought it crashing down, then it would have been, but he didn’t. That his ‘escape’ of a three match ban is even newsworthy shows just how skewed the disciplinary priorities are in this country.
If an opponent is flying past you, and you react by cynically and deliberately hacking them to the ground, you get a yellow card. Yet surely that is far worse (and far more violent) than some of these incidents. To ban Nasri would have been equivalent to the pathetic suspension Aliadiere picked up for flicking Mascherano’s face last year. Stupidity dropped to a new level that day.
For the record, I also agree with the decision not to ban Barmby for his push to Nasri’s face in the subsequent melee. I fail to see why the authorities don’t differentiate between that innocuous action, and those the ‘raised hands’ rule was brought in for – punches and slaps. There is clearly a varying level of violence going on, yet the punishments don’t reflect that.
I remember years ago (97/98 season, since you asked), Alan Shearer, then England captain, viciously roundhouse kicked Neil Lennon in the head while he lay prone on the ground. Despite condemnation for a plainly violent act, he was banned for just three matches. If you lightly push an opponent in the face, and they collapse in a dramatic heap, you get the same spell on the sidelines. How is that justice?
For me, the three match ban, given for an entire scale of offences, has long been an overly simplistic system. In a way, I can see why it exists – a sliding scale of suspensions would give managers, fans, and the media chance to compare unfavourably, and suggest that X got off lightly compared to Y.
But right now, the system makes no sense. The inflexibility means that idiocy, violent conduct, or even doing a Martin Taylor get punished as equivalent offences, which they plainly are not.
On a sliding scale, it could be argued that a one match ban for Nasri would be fair. Or a six match ban for the sort of leg breaking challenges we still see. To be forced in a ‘three match ban or nothing’ decision fails to take into account that a completely different punishment may be justified.
But then, when did discipline at the FA ever make sense?