Embarrassing Juventus behaviour not what the game needs

The decision not to award the Bianconeri a late penalty against Genoa won referee Marco Guida a huge number of enemies, yet he was well within his rights not to point to the spot
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

As sure as night follows day, you can be certain that huge controversy will rear its head in Calcio at regular intervals, and more often than not it is Juventus who get caught up in it. Saturday night was no different, with scenes of fury from members of the playing and coaching staff at the final whistle after the Bianconeri were denied an injury-time penalty in the 1-1 draw against Genoa.

Falling backwards as he attempted to clear a right-wing cross into the penalty area, Grifone defender Andreas Granqvist succeeded only in deflecting the ball onto his raised arm. While other referees may have adjudged the contact to have been deliberate, or decided that the perpetrator could have removed his arm in time, it was Marco Guida’s assertion that Granqvist was in no position to avoid handling the ball.

Juventus’ response was to rush the team of officials. Mirko Vucinic, who had been waiting behind Granqvist, hoping to turn in the cross for a match-winning goal, was most vociferous. A minute later, when the final whistle went, he was joined by practically everybody else from the Juve first team and coaching staff.

Juventini went mad too. The Italian Wikipedia page of Guida was altered to describe him in its opening paragraph as a “s**t referee”, while Granqvist’s vital statistics painted him as a “Genoa goalkeeper”. The club’s fans were clearly as furious as their heroes. Further still, general director Giuseppe Marotta claimed afterwards that Neapolitan referees should no longer be allowed to officiate Juve games, clearly suggesting a pre-conceived plan to side with Genoa on Guida’s part.

It wasn’t just the late drama which had pulled their strings though. Vucinic earlier had his shirt pulled back by Luca Antonelli as he tried to meet a cross at the far post. He debated the decision with the goalline official but to no avail. Some believed that Paul Pogba deserved a penalty moments later, but again it was not given.

But there are two sides to every story, and that’s where things often get forgotten. Vucinic himself should have been penalised in the first half for a handball offence in his own area in the lead-up to a wayward Eros Pisano shot. If truth be told, each side probably had one valid penalty shout, but such is the world of football, it is the correct call by the official at the end which has caught the headlines.

MATCH FACTS | Juventus 1-1 Genoa



The pressure placed on referees only increases, never decreasing one jot. Even the introduction of a fourth and fifth colleague to man the goal-lines has done nothing to help. If anything, there has been only more controversy over incidents in and around the penalty areas this season. When a report suggested that 70 per cent of such calls had been awarded correctly this term, the media’s response was to point out that there is still a huge 30% of decisions being mishandled.

That goes right down the league though. Had Juventus been awarded that injury-time penalty and subsequently won the match, how would that have been fair on Genoa? There was no intention from Granqvist to handle, and he had done everything within reason to attempt to clear the ball as per the laws of the game. The Liguria side remain in the relegation zone, with their need for points arguably vastly greater than that of Juve. The point gained from Turin could well be the difference between Serie A and Serie B for them, yet they did not hound the officials when Vucinic handled in the first half.

Big clubs have bigger support, and therefore a bigger collective voice. Perceived errors that have wronged the top three of AC Milan, Inter and Juve are remembered more clearly and for far longer than bum calls that condemn others to failure. In English football there has long been held a view that Manchester United’s size and presence count for something extra when it comes to referees making a decision at Old Trafford, and much the same can be said of Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga and beyond. Conversely, neither does that mean that every decision going in favour of a big club is wrong.

However, what does need to be dealt with is the way that players and officials react to decisions. The scenes at the end of the game in which Conte led a mass hounding of Guida were an embarrassment to Juventus, as was Marotta’s call for bias within the selecting of referees. The club is bigger and better than that, and the episode did nobody of a black and white persuasion any favours. It is time to curtail some of that instinct to find blame elsewhere.

If an official makes a bad call, you hound them. If somebody stands up for a referee in a Inter game, they’re a Milanista or Juventino, and vice versa. Yet when players miss gilt-edged chances, they are all too often exonerated. Why do we never treat referees the same?

We’re told that refereeing needs to be better now because more money is at stake, but if the economic meltdown eventually reaches football, and sponsorship etc. drops to previous levels, will everyone lay off the officials? Such a scenario is unlikely.

It is about time people, whether players, fans, coaches or board members, accepted that referees are simply attempting to call matches for the sport’s good and called an amnesty on the kind of behaviour witnessed at Juventus Stadium. Even when referees make correct decisions based on the laws of the game that many players and club representatives clearly don’t understand, their names are dragged through the mud.

The ethics of our sport are fast being forgotten in the rush to find a scapegoat for every lost point, and something must be done to stop it.

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