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The Libero - De Jong tackle must prompt FA action

Published: 06 Oct 2010 - 08:41:01

The tackle by Nigel de Jong that left Hatem Ben Arfa's leg broken in two places was so out of control it was a travesty the Manchester City man actually stayed on the pitch.

That said, it wasn't the worst tackle we've seen this season. It wasn't even the worst tackle of last weekend.

That dubious honour must go to Karl Henry for his sliding lunge on Jordi Gomez in just the 11th minute of Wolves' game with Wigan.

- Newcastle call for De Jong punishment

Gomez was lucky. Remarkably he escaped unscathed from the challenge which resulted in him cartwheeling head over heels to the ground before Henry was shown the red card De Jong should also have seen.

Less fortunate was Ben Arfa, who now faces a long and uncertain road to recovery. As for the Frenchman's aggressor, De Jong will have to pretty quickly come to terms with his newfound status as public enemy number one.

His flagrant act of indiscipline at Eastlands prompted Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk to immediately drop him from the national squad amid a clamour on these shores for City boss Roberto Mancini to follow suit.

Of course that's never going to happen. Mancini was quick to back his player, while others have also leapt to the former Ajax and Hamburg enforcer's defence, reeling out the usual 'he's not that type of player' lines in a bid to placate the mob baying for his blood.

One of his Dutch team-mates even went as far as to say De Jong is a "sweet guy" and that "he doesn't want to injure anyone", although when those words come from the mouth of the less than angelic Mark van Bommel, they hold slightly less sway.

Those who saw his karate kick into Xabi Alonso's chest in the World Cup final would no doubt disagree with Van Bommel. So too in all likelihood Stuart Holden, the Bolton and USA midfielder, whose leg was also broken by a De Jong challenge during an international friendly in March.

Van Bommel, who got away with the proverbial murder in South Africa, added: "Nigel is and remains one of us. We find this all very frustrating. It's very unfortunate that he has broken the leg of an opponent twice in six months."

Really? Isn't De Jong actually the lucky one? He has somehow managed to get away with three challenges, two of which resulted in broken limbs and the other which only by a minor miracle did not, that he could easily have seen red for.

Yet he has got away scot-free, assuming that the FA are unwilling to bend their own rules and retrospectively hand him a three-game ban following the most recent incident - because Martin Atkinson confirmed he saw De Jong's tackle and at the time deemed it unworthy of a card.

But if Atkinson and the FA are apparently happy that the challenge did not warrant sanction, what does that say about the game's lawmakers and the officials who implement the rules on a week-by-week basis?

What kind of message does that send out to players like De Jong? As long as he knows he can get away with it, why would he change his style of play?

Credit must go to Van Marwijk for his admirable stand against the player, even if some sceptics believe he is merely making a scapegoat out of De Jong to deflect criticism over his team's rough and tumble tactics in the World Cup final.

Yet without the backing of an official body like the FA, and further down the line FIFA, it may be nothing more than an empty gesture.

De Jong will again line up for City against Blackpool a week on Sunday, and while he will have to watch his step a little more carefully now that all eyes on him and his reputation precedes him - what odds a knee-jerk first red card in City colours before the month is out? - other players of a similar ilk have not been suitably discouraged.

It seems clear that the FA must more clearly instruct their referees as to what is an acceptable tackle and what isn't, while looking at their own rules regarding retrospective action if these kind of challenges - and the injuries they incur - are to be stamped out.

De Jong's effort was far from acceptable and even though it was not as bad as Henry's, it nevertheless leaves a sour taste in the mouth to think he will not serve a similar ban. Even more so considering Ben Arfa will have to follow proceedings from a prone position on his couch.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.

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