Respect

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 21st 2015)

Reputations

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Carlos Velasco Carballo rapidly established himself as Spainʼs top referee since deciding to concentrate on officiating in 2010. He had built up a reputation as a firm but fair referee – one who managed to combine a disciplinarian streak with letting the game flow. This was quite an achievement. It was not unusual for there to be several yellow cards and the odd red card too.

Armed with the appropriate FIFA badge, Velasco Carballo refereed his first international in 2008. His first season refereeing past qualifiers for the Championʼs League coincided with a meteoric rise. In that season he was awarded the 2011 Europa League Final in Dublin. Radamel Falcao García Zárate – then playing for Porto – set a Europa League (UEFA Cup) record for goals scored in the competition.

It was a niggly match settled by a solitary goal scored by Falcao and liberally peppered by fouls and cards. 42 fouls resulted in eight yellow cards. This was a typical Velasco Carballo performance. The following season, he continued where he left off. Velasco Carballo refereed 19 Primera División matches and brandished 16 red cards.

He was Spainʼs representative at Euro2012 ahead of the more experienced Alberto Undiano Mallenco. He refereed the opening match in Poland against Greece. Sokratis Papasthapoulos was controversially sent off, having received two unfortunate yellow cards.

Stock

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Velasco Carballoʼs stock plummeted at the World Cup in the wretched quarter-final between Brasil and Colombia. Some say the occasion got to him, but that does not explain his performance. It wasnʼt just the record tally of fouls – 54 – some of which were appalling. Flagrant encroachment at a free-kick was not only unpunished, but rewarded. It was a performance that defied explanation.

He permitted over 40 offences before brandishing a yellow card in that match in Fortaleza and the first was for a comparatively trivial offence compared to what had gone before and later. FIFA insists that there was no directive to referees to show leniency when it came to showing cards and refused to criticise Velasco Carballoʼs performance in Fortaleza.

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Diego Maradona and Falcao were scathing in their criticism, but they werenʼt to know that Velasco Carballo had officiated against type. It remained to be seen how the Spaniard would perform post Fortaleza. If FIFA was correct and there was no directive then Velasco Carballo must have chosen to abandon his previous style and referee in an alien fashion, which he would no doubt stick to.

The Renaissance

His reputation had taken a mauling during the World Cup. But the signs were there after the World Cup that Velasco Carballo had refereed that match in an alien manner. Last December he refereed Eibar versus Valencia. There were 21 fouls, but 10 yellow cards, four in the last ten minutes. His first match of the new year took place on January 3rd between Sevilla and Celta de Vigo. There were 45 fouls. Velasco Carballo showed nine yellow cards and one red.

It was nowhere near as dirty a match as that infamous quarter-final. A league match between Real Sociedad and Villarreal last month had 24 fouls. He brandished ten yellow cards and a red card too. Just over a month ago he refereed a local encounter Levante versus Elche. Velasco Carballo showed a red card to David Navarro after just 6 minutes. He also showed six yellow cards. There were 26 fouls in the match. Clearly, this was not a referee who would not use his cards if the offence warranted it in Spain. What about in European competition?

He officiated the match between Schalke04 and Maribor in September. There were 24 fouls and five yellow cards were shown, all in the second half. He refereed FCK versus Bayer Leverkusen last August. Each side committed 12 fouls. He showed six yellow cards. Anderlechtʼs home defeat by Arsenal resulted in just three yellow cards with 27 fouls. Ajax beat the Cypriots APOEL comfortably at home in December. The 4-0 drubbing had 16 fouls, 8 each. Two Cypriot players were the only ones booked. It was hardly a dirty match deserving a flurry of cards.

His latest international after the World Cup was a Euro2016 qualifier between Iceland and the Netherlands. Iceland won 2-0. There were 23 fouls and only one booking – Nigel de Jong in the last ten minutes. But all of these statistics donʼt necessarily tell the whole story – not all fouls deserve cards. I have seen only two of his matches since the World Cup – Sevilla versus Celta de Vigo and last Thursdayʼs Europa League tie at White Hart Lane. His performances were true to form. Fortaleza was an aberration.

The Return

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Fans of los Cafeteros present at White Hart Lane would be forgiven a double take or two at his performance on Thursday night. It was the same referee who lost control of the quarter-final between Brasil and Colombia. There was never any danger of a repeat dose tonight as long as there were no ludicrous directives. It soon became clear that there were not.

Just three minutes into the match those familiar with the style and performances of Madrid-based referee Carlos Velasco Carballo – remember him – saw a familiar sight. The real Velasco Carballo jogging over to Spursʼ right wing with intent. Gonzalo Rodríguez brought down Andros Townsend. It was a bad foul that deserved a booking and got one.

Velasco Carballo had made it clear where his line was and the match quickly settled down. There was no danger that this would degenerate into foul fare. The referee was in control. The whole match had 24 fouls and just three yellow cards. The refereeʼs authority was never in doubt and it flowed. There was no need for more cards. This is the real Carlos Velasco Carballo.

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Harsh Lesson

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 23rd 2014)

Germany Poops Party

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The European champions are currently ranked second in the world. England came into the historic and prestigious friendly oozing confidence from an impressive run in World Cup qualification – both sides had won all ten of their qualification matches, but the gulf in class was clear. Nevertheless, Karen Carney celebrating her 100th cap and striker Eniola Aluko still believe that England could pull a surprise at next year’s World Cup.

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6 minutes into the match Melanie Behringer’s corner was headed past Karen Bardsley to give Germany the lead. The goal was credited to Simone Laudehr, although other angles showed that it was an own-goal by Alex Scott. Six minutes a team huddle heralded further organisation was necessary after conceding a sloppy second.

Miscommunication between the captain Stephanie Houghton and their most experienced player Fara Williams resulted in Williams prodding it into the path of Germany’s skipper for the afternoon Célia Šašić1, who was playing her 99th international. Šašić needed no second invitation. Her progress was easier than it should have been. Scott couldn’t get to her and Lucy Bronze fell between two stools – neither challenging her nor covering another attacker. Šašić found the far corner from the left.

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Awed?

The Lionesses have never beaten Germany in 19 attempts. Five years ago they were beaten 6-2 in the final of the European Championship. There was no shortage of spirit, but German quality and organisation was superior. The benefits of their infrastructure, development policies, youth structures and longer established league were plain to see.

Carney showed that spirit to dispossess Tabea Kemme near the halfway and press forward before Lena Goeßling came across to snuff out the danger at the expense of a corner. Williams was poised to take it, but Swiss referee Ester Staubli raced across and refused to let her take it – apparently ordering her to go and get treatment for a leg injury. The corner was wasted.

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Šašić’s goal – assuming that the first is credited as an own goal – was the first conceded by England to a European on home soil since 2009 against Iceland. The defence was normally their greatest strength at home, but the opponents were a different class and uncharacteristic errors and perhaps awe. Meanwhile, the Germans had insisted that they were excited about playing at Wembley, but would not let pressure get to them. They were good to their word.

Positives

It could have been different as England almost got the perfect start within seconds of the start. Jordan Nobbs’ swerving 22 yard effort thudded against the cross-bar with keeper Almuth Schult, deputising for team captain Nadine Angerer who couldn’t make it over from Australia in time, beaten. Germany countered swiftly. Bardsley denied Melanie Leupolz’s effort from the right of the area.

Nobbs went close again with a looping header that Schult claimed and took to the line. Nobbs appealed for a goal, but there was no evidence that the whole of the ball had crossed the line. Another marginal decision occurred around the half hour mark.

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Leupolz was denied again after savvy defending by Arsenal striker Lianne Sanderson defending a free-kick. As Behringer took it Sanderson stepped up to catch Leupolz offside. It was needed as Leupolz headed it in. It was rightly disallowed for offside. Interestingly the officials got both major decisions right without the aid of technology.

Williams almost profited from a poor defensive clearance by Jennifer Cramer, which she controlled neatly and then volleyed at goal, but too close to Schult. In first half injury time Alexandra Popp found Kemme on the right wing. Her cross was headed in to Bardsley’s left. A record attendance for a women’s international of over 45,000 was a positive too.

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Improvement

The Lionesses failed to score, but they held the European champions in the second half, although Silvia Neid’s team lost the fluency of their first half play in the final quarter with one notable exception. Just over 20 minutes into the second half substitute Anja Mittag crossed from the left wing.

Šašić sensing a hat-trick stretched to connect, but her header was weak and easy for Bardsley. Šašić was unaware that substitute Luisa Wensing coming in behind her was in a better position. Wensing was not amused.

Mittag had been quite rightly booked for a sliding tackle that sent Williams flying ten minutes earlier. With injury time beckoning England went close. Bronze found space on the right wing and pulled it back to Jodie Taylor who put Jill Scott through, but her shot hit the side netting.

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1 Šašić, formerly possessed the longest surname in German women’s football – Okoyino da Mbabi – before marrying Croatian footballer Marko Šašić last year.