Apr 08 2011

WHAT A WEEK IN SLOVAK FOOTBALL!!

Published by at 9:11 pm under Domestic and tagged: ,

Readers may or may not have picked up on events over the last, quite tumultuous of weeks in Slovak Football.  James Baxter does a simply superb job of summarising everything. Read, and enjoy!

MŠK Žilina seem to have spent more time answering to Slovak football‘s powers-that-be this week than some ill-behaved school students spend in the headteacher’s office in a year. The reasons, of course, are well-known by now ; the assault on assistant referee Roman Slyško by MŠK fan Ľubomir Krajčík in the 90th minute of last Friday’s home Corgoň Liga game with Slovan Bratislava and the lax security that allowed it to happen.

Three punishments have been handed out. Firstly, Žilina have forfeited the game, in which they looked like they would hold on for a fortunate 0-0 draw, by a 3-0 scoreline. This is right and was always going to happen according to SFZ rules. Žilina‘s protestations that the game could have continued after a calming-down period are, to my mind, ridiculous. The match-officials have a perfect right to end a game early when their or the players’ safety is compromised, as it was in this case. End of game, end of story.

The second punishment is a more interesting one. Žilina will be forced to play two games behind closed doors IF there are further outbreaks of trouble or lapses of security at their ground within the next six months. People will have their opinions on this I’m sure but again I think it’s a reasonable judgement. There are, surprisingly, no precedents for a case of exactly this type in Slovak football but, if you look at other recent examples of clubs having their grounds closed, the argument that Žilina have been dealt with fairly begins to take some shape. DAC Dunajská Streda were forced to close their stadium with immediate effect after violent scenes (which resulted in 30 people requiring hospital treatment) at a game with Slovan in 2008/2009. Košice were handed a similar punishment after a number of their fans attacked stewards with flagpoles at a game earlier this season. The adjudication passed on Žilina seems to recognise that last Friday’s incident did, on the face of it, involve less violence than the others mentioned here yet has extremely serious implications and must not happen again.

Finally, Žilina have been hit with a 10,000 Euro fine for failing to ensure proper security. Again, fair enough. Stewards do have a difficult job but if there is a time when they need to be on their guard it is the 90th minute of a match which is still in the balance and has been tense and controversial for pretty much its entire duration. How they allowed Mr Krajčík, hardly the most athletic specimen if newspaper pictures of him are anything to go by, to get past them unapprehended is a question that needs answering.

On top of sanctions handed out to the club, Žilina right-back Stanislav Angelovič has been banned for six games for his unsporting behaviour towards Slyško as the officials prepared to leave the field on Friday. Yet again, the punishment fits the crime. Angelovič put hands on the assistant and appeared to attempt to push him back towards the centre of the pitch. SFZ accept that the player’s actions were not ‘aggressive in intent’ but they were certainly disrespectful and implied an attempt to prevent the officials doing what they were absolutely within their rights to do.

In addition, the SFZ were commendably quick to rescind the red card shown to Momodou Ceesay against Slovan. Match referee Pavol Chmura’s original judgement that Ceesay had dived in an attempt to win a penalty in the 70th minute resulted in the player receiving his second booking of the evening. Replays, however, revealed that, although Slovan midfielder Filip Kiss’s challenge had been fair, Ceesay was powerless to stay on his feet as a result of it and thus hadn’t dived. Yet again, the committee’s decision, which cleared Ceesay to play what turned out to be a starring role in his sides cup semi-final win on Tuesday, was demonstrably a correct and fair one

But I am troubled by other issues raised by Chmura’s performance. Very questionable for me is the SFZ decision to award a retrospective yellow card to Kiss for a 44th minute foul on Ceesay that should have seen Žilina given a penalty. The authorities are creating a dangerous precedent there as well as, potentially, an awful lot of unnecessary work for themselves ; surely they don’t plan to watch replay after replay of every league match in order to determine which players, if any, deserve to be punished after the event.

But my biggest concerns arise from an interview with Chmura given in Wednesdays Šport. Headlined, ‘Sorry Žilina’, the interview attempts to explain why the referee made the decisions he did and gives reasons why the game was a difficult one to control. I see no need for any of this. Anyone with a sense of fairness knows how hard it can be for a referee to get a crucial decision correct in a split-second. The two involving Ceesay were especially tough and I can imagine a lot of replays were needed before the committee men were finally able to come to the right conclusions. I would also say there is no real need for Chmura to apologise to Žilina as a club. Again, clubs should know that key decisions do occasionally go against them, sometimes more than once in a game. If Chmura had simply acknowledged that Ceesay had been sent off incorrectly, it would have been enough.

More disturbing still is the way the interview, having extracted an admission of mistakes, then seems to require the referee to publicly prostrate himself. ‘Did you sleep well after the game?’ it asks, as though readers with Žilina sympathies have a right to know whether or not Chmura suffered. Even worse, though, is that the official found it necessary to refer to the difficult atmosphere surrounding the match. There are already enough football followers in Slovakia ready to peddle conspiracy theories without referees, consciously or not, giving them more ammunition.

Dušan Krchňák, head of the SFZ referees commission, doesn’t help matters either by hinting, in another Šport interview, that Chmura was in the middle for Žilina v Slovan almost by default since other referees are from either Žilina or Bratislava or were otherwise unacceptable to one or other of the clubs. There are clearly problems in Slovak football, some of them concerning referees, and someone, preferably someone completely neutral, needs to come out and talk about them. But that someone should not have been Chmura.

It is regrettable that these issues are under discussion at a time when the Corgoň Liga championship race has become genuinely exciting. Žilina and Slovan remain in the mix, of course, and face Banská Bystrica and Zlaté Moravce respectively this weekend. But top of the league are Senica. They should consolidate their lead tomorrow against bottom of the table Dubnica and will, no doubt, be quite happy to go about their work almost unnoticed as the rest of us get ourselves worked up over Žilina and Slovan. Whatever the results, it will be nice if we only have on-field events to talk about once the games are over.

James Baxter

4 responses so far




4 Responses to “WHAT A WEEK IN SLOVAK FOOTBALL!!”

  1.   coyoton 08 Apr 2011 at 11:04 pm

    A lot of unnecessary work? I’d say that quite necessary. Retrospective carding of players for diving, shirtpulling and dangerous tackles would be a way to get footballers to play cleaner. The biggest cheaters would soon accumulate enough bookings to spend a significant time in the stands, giving their employers an opportunity to consider whether they’re the best bang for the buck they get paid.

  2.   James Baxteron 08 Apr 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Dangerous tackles and violent play (where they can be proved)yes. Not convinced about the rest. Partly because so many decisions are still open to interpretation even after countless replays, partly because it’s undermining the refs. The ref last Friday has been put through the mill pretty badly already for two decisions that, while incorrect, were incredibly difficult ones to call. I kind of agree with what you say about the players, though.

  3.   coyoton 09 Apr 2011 at 12:38 am

    I don’t think it’s undermining the refs at all. It’s not changing the match results, after all. We know that refs cannot possibly see everything and judge everything correctly, but why should they mind when their mistakes and omissions get “fixed”?

    Hockey refs don’t feel undermined by goal video checks, replays are used in rugby… both during the match, even. Retrospective carding of offenses that should have been carded according to the rules if the referee saw it well, I can’t find any reason against that, especially not the one of “unnecessary work”. Given the budgets those football authorities operate with, it’d be a drop in the sea to have a few guys watch football for a living :)

  4.   James Baxteron 09 Apr 2011 at 10:41 am

    Video goal checks are not really part of the argument because the refs know they’ll refer to them as soon as there’s a difficult case. And such cases occur how often? Once every two or three games perhaps.

    Even if you’re not happy with ‘unnecessary work’ as a reason against retrospective carding (and not all associations operate with massive budgets – the SFZ currently has a big deficit though admittedly there are reasons for that which require explanation), there’s still the question of interpretation, eg would a ref’s ‘common-sense’ decision not to book a player have to be overturned? Would refs occasionally cop out of bookings on the field knowing the player might later be retrospectively booked anyway? That could cause problems as it might lead to players who should have been sent off staying on the field.

    In the particular case of this Slovan player, I think the consequence of retrospectively carding him has been to admit that Za should have had a penalty. And that’s all just fed into the conspiracy theories that some people wanted to peddle about the game from the start.

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