UEFA has demonstrated in recent years that it lacks the backbone to address the key issues that damage the game we all love be that in relation to racism or any other matter that falls under their jurisdiction.
The behaviour of Atletico Madrid’s players in recent years has been appalling and they reflect their manager’s football philosophy. Diving, timewasting, surrounding the referee over every tackle demanding red and yellow cards to name just a few elements in their dark repertoire. In their Champions League quarter final, the Manchester City players did remarkably well to keep their cool under the most severe provocation.
What you need is for UEFA to appoint referees who stamp on unacceptable behaviour as soon as it starts. When Phil Foden was poleaxed from behind (an assault which drew blood) the German referee Daniel Sibert failed to act and that set the tone for the evening. Foden was quite clearly a target all night and it cannot be right that players of his calibre get such little protection from the officials.
After the performance of the German referee in the West Ham v Lyon first leg match it is to be hoped that UEFA appoint referees who see this type of behaviour for what it is and stamp down on it before it gets out of hand as it did last week. Certainly, Daniel Sibert should not be allocated the final or the semi-final as that will send out all the wrong messages.
Stefan Slavic and Felipe between them in one passage of play managed to kick Phil Foden, then drag him off the pitch and then Savic head butted Raheem Sterling and pursued Jack Grealish to the changing room after pulling his hair. God knows what the referee was watching as it was clear he was getting instructions through his earpiece and eventually sent Felipe off but not with a straight red but a second yellow. Felipe knew very well he had kicked out at Foden but then proceeded to refuse to leave the pitch as he protested he had done nothing wrong. At one-point Simeone came on to the pitch to add to the mayhem.
At the end of the match, it required police to be called to the players tunnel after more provocation from Atletico’s Sime Vrsaljiko.
Football at this level should be about great players, good football and not the type of behaviour we see from Atletico year in year out. Atletico are masters of the dark arts and I for one am delighted they are out of the competition. Manchester City were the winners on the night but so was football.
If UEFA had any backbone, it would take the strongest disciplinary action against Atletico as a club but don’t hold your breath!