Let A-League players and coaches speak their minds
Adelaide United vs Wellington Phoenix saw controversy over diving (Image: Supplied)
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It may have gone largely unnoticed but the A-League threw down an unexpected gauntlet to the NRL and AFL over the weekend, with certain key personnel telling us what they really thought about refereeing decisions.
Adelaide United’s fortuitous 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix saw visiting skipper Andrew Durante lash out at the Reds’ Argentine import Jeronimo Neumann and the performance of referee Jared Gillett.
“I think the first one was offside from what I saw,” Durante told Fox Sports in reference to Cassio’s goal, after the full-back was played in by Jeronimo who appeared to be offside in the build-up.
“The second one he’s dived, he’s a cheat. In my book if he’s dived, he’s a cheat,” added the Phoenix skipper.
“I think the referees were shocking tonight.”
The “second one” Durante was referring to saw Gillett hand Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund a straight red card after he clipped Jeronimo as the Argentine was rampaging down on goal.
Though there appeared to be some contact, Jeronimo’s laughable dive left the Phoenix fuming at Sigmund’s subsequent dismissal.
The merits of Sigmund’s sending off are up for debate, but what made Durante’s reaction so different to anything we see in our other domestic codes was his sheer willingness to candidly voice his opinion.
That’s a world away from the heavily censured NRL and AFL, and A-League officials would be well advised to let players have their say and avoid sanctioning them for doing so.
One thing the A-League has lacked in the past is a personal narrative from players and that’s the kind of insight which helps draw fans closer to the game.
“To end the game with a referee’s decision like that… that linesman on the far side did nothing to help this game. I thought it was extremely poor,” raged Durante – and on the basis of video replays, who can blame him?
Durante wasn’t the only one offering a frank point of view from a controversial round of action.
Sydney FC can thank their lucky stars for somehow coming away with all three points despite a lethargic performance in their 2-1 win over Perth Glory.
And the failure of referee Peter Green to award Perth a penalty for Rhyan Grant’s handball inside the box raised the hackles of Glory coach Ian Ferguson.
“To me that decision today, and I don’t want to harp on as if it’s sour grapes here, but it’s a certain penalty, it’s a guaranteed penalty and we don’t get it,” Ferguson said after the match.
“They said it wasn’t intentional. They need to clarify what is a penalty and what isn’t a penalty, because I’m gobsmacked, to me that was a certain penalty,” he added.
Were Ferguson a rugby league coach, he could reasonably expect to cop a fine for such a forthright statement from the ARL Commission – the same body that just last week sacked referees’ co-coaches Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper for consistently poor refereeing performances in 2012.
And while there’s a fine line between constructive criticism and unhelpful pillorying of referees, the fact is their performances are always going to be scrutinised.
Football is an entertainment business after all, and fans want to see players vent their frustrations after defeats just as much as they want to see them celebrate wins.
Jeronimo looks well on the way to becoming one of the best players in the A-League and after only four matches he is already one of the signings of the season.
But his ‘just been hit by a sniper’ routine looked farcically contrived and if the well-respected Durante considered it cheating, so be it.
Everyone else is allowed an opinion, so let’s let players and coaches speak their minds as well, lest the A-League turn into the kind of straight-jacketed cliché-fest rival codes have become.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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