Opinion: Alessandro Del Piero no falling star

Is the Italian veteran a victim of rough-house tactics or a protected species looked after star-struck A-League match officials? Guy Hand is in no doubt
There's a simple way to stop Alessandro Del Piero hitting the deck.

Stop fouling him.

There was plenty of noise about the Italian going to ground too easily as he picked up 12 fouls in Sydney FC's brave 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory at the weekend.

Many called him a diver. Many more accused A-League officials of showing Del Piero favouritism, both in how many fouls he draws and how he is treated when he commits fouls himself.

It is the most naive of views.

Del Piero wins fouls not because he is underhand, but because he is a smart player.

He thinks quicker than opponents young enough to be his son, controls the tempo when he has the ball and most importantly, positions himself ideally when he receives the ball to protect it from marauding defenders.

If you want to win the ball from Del Piero, you need to either beat him to the ball, or go through him.

Victory right-back Jason Geria, clumsy Pablo Contreras and others chose the latter option, and therefore kept paying the price.

The Italian is the best and most decorated player ever to set foot on an A-League pitch. He has never been fingered for diving in a 20-year career at the highest level.

How many of the fouls on him were really in dispute? They certainly could have all been avoided if the defender had been as smart as the bloke he was attempting to tackle.

Victory skipper Mark Milligan got it spot on when asked about the issue on Fox Sports on Sunday night.

He said his players shouldn't have jumped in on Del Piero, knowing his ability to make a defender either look stupid or commit a foul.

At 39, Del Piero's body may be aging. But his mind and skills are as sharp as Pecorino Romano.

There are problems with A-League refereeing right now.

But one thing officials don't have to worry about is their treatment of Del Piero. They are getting that right.

Now it's up to A-League defenders to do the same.
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