Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fan Attacks Player in Dutch Cup Game - Player Sent Off for Fighting Back

Talk about a bizarre incident. Yesterday American striker Jozy Altidore's AZ Alkmaar squad traveled to Amsterdam to take on Ajax in the 4th Round of the Dutch Cup. A little over 30 minutes into the match, with Ajax leading 1-0, a fan ran onto the field and tried to attack AZ Alkmaar's goalie Esteban Alvarado (link to video - here). Alvarado deflected the attack and then kicked his assailant several times before security arrived on the scene. However, referee Bas Nijhuis issued a red card to Alvarado for violent conduct causing Alkmaar coach Gertjan Verbeek to pull his time off the field in protest thereby halting the match. The Dutch soccer federation is now debating whether to replay the match, resume the match, or declare Ajax the winner.
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I honestly can't believe that awarding the match to Ajax is even on the table. If this match was in the 88th or 89th minute, maybe. But in the first half of a 1-0 game? After the home fans attacked the visiting team's goalie? To not at least resume the match would be a travesty in my eyes. It just seems like a really bad precedent to set especially considering red card to Alvarado has already been rescinded. It should be noted though that the federation maintains that Nijhuis was acting in accordance with the rules when he sent Alvarado off. Something doesn't seem right about that.

Per FIFA's rule book Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct "[a player] is also guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against a team-mate, spectator, match official or any other person. Violent conduct may occur either on the field of play or outside its boundaries, whether the ball is in play or not."

I'm going to be honest with you. I don't see what Alvarado did as being excessive. Sure he kicked him after he got his assailant on the ground, but it's not like he kicked him in the face or stomped on him with his cleats. Both of Alvarado's kicks strike the man in the legs in essence keeping him on the ground. And once security arrived, Alvarado stopped going after him. I think it's flat out the wrong call. If a fan runs onto the field, the first thought needs to be the protection of the players. There's no place in sports for fans running onto the field, certainly not those with violent intentions, and if you punish the players for protecting themselves, you're not doing anything to discourage future incidents. There's a big difference between Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson taking on fans in the stands at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and Alvarado doing what he did on the field. Hopefully the Dutch make the right call here.

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