SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian referees are done with tolerating whining players.
After years of being angrily confronted after nearly every call in stadiums across Brazil, they are finally being allowed to strike back.
The Brazilian Football Confederation has given referees permission to be ruthless with dissenting players, hoping to change a culture where complaints were widely accepted and often extreme.
It has resulted in a huge increase in yellow cards, and a lot of criticism from players and coaches who are constantly trying to deceive them.
“I’m afraid to even greet the referee because I may get a card,” Sao Paulo midfielder Michel Bastos says. “It’s complicated when you can’t even talk to the referees. There’s no more communication on the field. This is beyond reasonable.”
South American players are known for their vivid complaints, and have long enjoyed more leeway when interacting with referees, especially compared to leagues in Europe.
Brazil wants to end that.
More than 100 yellow cards, an unprecedented number, have been awarded for the slightest sign of protest in the first eight rounds of the Brazilian league. In the third round alone, 20 cards were awarded for dissent, an average of two per game.
The confederation says the new recommendations were needed because of “recurring complaints by individuals and groups of players against the decisions made by the referees during and after games.”
“Football cannot be the victim of weak referees or undisciplined players and coaches, whose actions ignite fans in the stands,” said Sergio Correa, president of the confederation’s refereeing commission. “The undisciplined behavior of these idols allows youngsters to build disrespectful habits toward authorities in general.”
Refs who don’t follow the recommendations may risk being taken off future matches, the confederation says.
Any tantrum after a ref’s decision will most definitely draw a card, as will minor confrontations that used to be tolerated in years past. Players are especially upset because sometimes they are getting booked just for approaching the referee to discuss a call.
“It’s just too much,” Santos defender David Braz says. “We have to be able to interact with the referee on the field. Football is not like that.”
Coaches are also indignant at the change.
Sao Paulo manager Juan Carlos Osorio says he was surprised to be sent off after trying to talk to a referee at halftime.
“I didn’t know that referees were untouchable in Brazil,” the Colombian coach says. “I’ve worked in the United States and England and it wasn’t like that. Everywhere in the world you are allowed to talk to each other. I thought it would be the same here in Brazil.”
Osorio says he politely questioned the referee about a yellow card and never offended him.
In the match report, referee Anderson Daronco said Osorio waited for him in the tunnel that leads to the changing rooms and, pointing his finger at him, said the yellow card was “unfair” and a “mistake.”
Internacional playmaker Lisandro Lopez was irate after being sent off for a second yellow card for complaining in a recent match. In his report, the referee admitted Lopez didn’t offend him, but said the player complained too much.
Internacional and Sao Paulo are among seven clubs who agreed to attend a lecture being offered by the confederation to explain the new recommendations.
Not everybody is criticizing the change.
Some say being rigorous and enforcing laws that are being ignored by players is the only way to make local players change their attitude on the field, including when it comes to diving and simulation, other common actions of South American players.
“They are doing the right thing,” Atletico Mineiro coach Levir Culpi told ESPN Brasil. “Everybody feels like they are being hurt by the referee, nobody likes them. So it’s important to try to protect them a little bit more. It’s boring to see a bunch of players storming the referee to complain, it’s disrespectful.
“The only solution to educate these players is to be rigorous,” he adds, “because it’s a football culture that exists for many generations here.”
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