A-League stars should not get special protection

Great footballers who have the ability to thrill the fans and keep them on the edge of their seats are the bread and butter of the game.

diego castro

Andrew Hoole challenges Diego Castro Source: AAP

Whether it's in Australia or abroad, the special players who can win matches on their own, with a moment of improvisation or pure genius, are worth their weight in gold.

They are among the main reasons thousands of fans part wth their hard earned for the privilege of watching them go about their business.

However, calls for these kind of players to be given protection because of who they are and what they bring to the game are unfair and discriminatory.

Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe has urged A-League referees to give Spanish wizard Diego Castro greater protection because he claims the masterful marauder is being regularly knocked about by frustrated opponents.

Castro, 34, was in one of his most sublime moods when he helped Glory to a 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets on Saturday night.

However, Lowe was not happy.

"Castro gets kicked and gets kicked again. I think the ref's got a little bit of selective vision with things like that," Lowe said.

"He wriggles out of spaces he shouldn't wriggle out of.

"He makes people look a little bit stupid at times and that probably just pisses them off so they kick him.

"But somewhere down the line you've got to protect him. You've got to protect your best players in the league."

Lowe has every reason to feel aggrieved by the punishment Castro is receiving from unscrupulous defenders and there is no suggestion that he is asking for any preferential treatment for his marquee but he is off the mark when he asks for selective protection.

Castro should be protected for sure but so should the other 21 players on the field.

Is Lowe urging refs to give the Spaniard the benefit of the doubt simply because he is too good an entertainer?

Players should be pulled up and given cards whenever they break the rules, regardless of the skill level of the victims of their indiscretions.

One also can argue that asking referees to protect the crowd-pullers discriminates against those who are less technically endowed.

So what happens if referees start giving free kicks and penalties simply because they are dealing with stars who put bums on seats?

Doesn't that create unnecessary discontent in a match and spark accusations of inconsistency?

Those players with average skills would be perfectly entitled to think they are being 'punished' for not having as much skill as the marques.

They are the players who regularly put in as big an effort as that of the marquees, but do not earn nearly as much as the stars do. 

And who determines who is or is not a genuine star, anyway? Would the referees be given a list of players they should 'look after' because they are good for the game?

And what if an 'ordinary' player comes up with a brilliant manoeuvre and appears to be stopped illegally by a callous opponent?

Does he get the greater protection Lowe is talking about or will the referee be encouraged not to take such firm action simply because he is not dealing with a 'special' case?

The finest players in the league should be strong enough to rise above the ordinary and leave their mark on a match by letting their football do the talking and they do not need to get special protection to be able to do so.

A simple and consistent fair go from their adversaries and the referees should be sufficient.

And this should apply not just to them but to everybody.

The point about invincibles

Sydney FC are closing in on their ambition to end the season as the A-League's first 'Invincibles'.

With nine rounds to go in the regular season, the Sky Blues are leading the table by nine points and have yet to taste defeat after 18 matches.

But it should be pointed out that the A-League calendar includes the finals and no team should proclaim invincibility unless they remain unbeaten throughout the whole championship that ends with the grand final.

And talking of 'Invincibles', for the record Patrick Vieira's Arsenal in 2003-2004 were not the only club to win a major championship in Europe undefeated.

Franco Baresi's AC Milan won Serie A in 1991-1992 unbeaten.

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4 min read
Published 6 February 2017 at 10:02am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS