Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nah Nah Nani

Kicking Back gives special thanks to Steve for bringing this one forward for publishing.

For those who have not seen this bizarre goal between Man U and Tottenham back on 30-OCT-2010, take a look below, or at the link here.

A disclaimer - My answer here is not a "book" answer. While I will answer the more technical aspects of this catastrophe, I will not cite chapter and verse the LOTG, but rather reference it, this will focus more on management than rules of THE game.

In this clip, we are treated to a chain of events where several mistakes were made by the players, and I would opine the referee. Lets review the sequence of major events:
  • Man U #17 (Nani) received a ball in the Tottenham penalty area and was possibly fouled by Tottenham #4 (Kaboul) at the corner of the 6 yard box, in front of the Tottenham net.
  • The ball is picked up by the Tottenham GK (da Silva Gomes) and placed at about 12 yards from goal. His demeanor indicated he believed there was a free kick.
  • From the video and reports the referee had not stopped play in any way, and the JAR had not indicated anything.
  • All the players (all that can be seen in the video) react as if the play was stopped and a free kick was about to be taken.
  • Nani jogs to the ball, steps up, and shoots the ball into the net while the GK looked to about to take what seemed to be a free kick.
  • Referee and JAR allow the goal making it 2 - 0 Man U in about the 86'.
  • Understandable protests erupt inside the field.
Now, take a close look at the video, at 0:30 and 0:34. The referee, Mark Clattenburg, pretty clearly signals something strikingly resembling a play on signal. This first signal seemed to be at the GK (as Nani was on the floor) and the second one seemed to be at Nani as he was looking in that direction.

So that's what happened. What do I think?
The referee blew this one - badly.

This whole episode did not comport with the spirit of the game, despite complying with the LOTG.

Now, technically, if the referee or JAR believed there was no foul by either Kaboul (trip), or Nani (offside or handball) and allowed the play to continue, the result is a valid goal. No stoppage. Goal. There is no reason for another result. Shame on the GK for putting the ball down, and bravo for Nani for taking advantage.

If a foul was called on any of the above, the restart should have been for the foul. It would stand to reason that the referee did not call one, as he allowed the goal to stand. Reports of the incident agree that no foul was called.

So now what? Do we allow such a goal to stand as referees? One that while technically correct, is against the spirit of the game? Where is the spirit of the game enumerated in the LOTG?

It's not in text, and that's why this is such a difficult decision.

So a couple of folks may be leaning back in their chair and saying, "So we are supposed to not allow a goal, not based in the LOTG, but some ethereal aspect that is not in text anywhere, called "spirit"?"


This is the type of decision that turns a person who "enforces the rules", into a referee that is respected by players, coaches, and those who love the game.

It's easy to enforce the rules really. The most difficult part is to manage the players in such a way as to let them know you have THE games best interest at heart.

Letting Man U score a goal in a way that openly takes advantage of such confusion is contrary to the spirit of THE game, and as the referee was the cause for some of that confusion, part of this is on him.

So now what? How does a referee legitimately restart the game in such a case to nullify the goal? Making something up out of whole cloth is just as detrimental to the spirit of the game as is what actually happened.

  1. If they believe there was a foul, call the foul. In this case Nani may well have been legitimately busted for handling when he got up off the floor. Restart there. This may very well have been what the GK was reacting to.
  2. Drop the ball. Law 8 allows the referee to drop the ball if the ball is in play and required to stop play for any reason not mentioned in the LOTG. This situation could be such a reason. Now I will say, this would be a tough sell at the EPL level ... but just as allowed per the LOTG.
For me, at the heart of this issue is the question if a player should be allowed to use the LOTG to circumvent the spirit of THE game.

My answer is a clear no. Exceptional referees apply the laws to obtain the right result for THE game, not just follow them like a set of directions that can result in unjust results, such as this goal.


  1. I completely agree with Peter. The referee blew this one. If you watch carefully, it seems as if the JAR is telling the players "I know", and they walk away as if the JAR is going to right this wrong. However, when the referee confers with him, he awards a goal. We will never know what was said between the two of them, but it seems the referee decided to strictly interpret the LOTG.

  2. Good eyes Randy. In fact there are reports out that the JAR told the (Spurs) players that the goal would be disallowed.

    Further bad news for the referees and FA.