Apologies to Gillett and Berisha
It is staggering the amount of rubbish that has been written in the wake of Brisbane Roar’s thrilling A-League grand final win over Perth Glory.
While much of the discourse has been great, and passionate arguments about the final penalty decision have raged, there was the predictable and totally misinformed peddling of the “divers”, “cheats” and “Un-Australian” tags when describing the game’s climax. Besat Berisha and to a lesser extent referee Jarred Gillett have been the focus of these post-match discussions.
One such article was written by Simon White on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website under the headline A-League’s Face of Ugliness, which had a photo of Berisha celebrating the Roar’s victory. It was an opinion piece and the writer admitted his main allegiance is to AFL.
No problem there, it’s great to see supporters of other codes take an active interest in the A-League. But the article descended into familiar territory with accusations of the un-Australian nature of Besat Berisha’s celebration of the penalty award after he “fell over his own feet.” At least Simon White declined to call it a dive, unlike numerous readers who left comments decrying “soccer” as a game full of cheats and soft, unmanly players.
One reader declared that the concurrent AFL game between Western Bulldogs and Melbourne was contested between 44 young men “busting a gut, showing great courage” while the A-League had “22 men of moderate skill and fitness plod around” while Berisha was a “lightweight Albanian hack.”
Apparently in this argument, his nationality is paramount. And on a day when Glory striker Shane Smeltz played 80 minutes with a facial injury that later required 50 stitches, this was not courageous enough?
Without doubt, opinions on the legitimacy of the penalty were split in the post-match analysis. However, the excellent review of the grand final on Fox Sports showed quite conclusively that Liam Miller did in fact foul Berisha by knocking his left foot with a lunging tackle attempt, just as Berisha was about to plant that foot for his shot.
The subsequent contact caused Berisha’s foot to knock the ball away and deny him a shooting opportunity. Jarred Gillett got his decision right. He didn’t give the decision based on where his girlfriend worked, he gave it based on what he saw, in a split second. It thus follows that Berisha didn’t dive, didn’t cheat and was “guilty” only of an exuberant celebration of the decision. He then had to calm his over-the-top pulse rate and actually convert the spot-kick.
A great A-League grand final ended, as it transpired, not controversially but correctly.
Jarred Gillet and Besat Berisha won’t be checking their mail for apologies but they deserve a few.