THE TURF 16th November 2013



by David Jack  :  November 16, 2013

Alessandro Del Piero has been a great footballer and would probably rate in the top 5 Italian players of all time. He continues to deliver in the A-League, not the playground of the most technical players but nevertheless a league that is fast and physical. In A-League History “Il Pinturicchio’s” goalscoring record is quite outstanding on a goals per game average.

There is however an aspect to his game that is dividing fans and football purists. Alessandro Del Piero is suffering from the “Humpty Dumpty” syndrome. He can’t stop falling down and all the king’s horses and men, in the form of Fox Sports and SBS Football commentators are not just turning a blind eye to this aspect of his game, but praising him effusively for this practice.

Whether he is impeded by an opponent, runs into one or kicks a player in the lower leg so that he can fall over (don’t laugh), Del Piero can achieve the same result – a free kick. In modern football apparently this practice, known as “drawing the foul” is called a skill. You will probably find it on page 13 of “Football in the 21st Century”.

Del Piero’s play acting is described by his coach, Frank Farina as the sign of a “genius”. Farina’s theory is glowingly supported by the TV football networks. Of course these stakeholders all have a vested interest (TV ratings) in putting the most positive spin on the antics of the Italian “genius”.

It’s clear that Del Piero no longer has the pace to go past players, so rather than lose the ball, he will collide with an opponent or in the case of the comical goal he scored against the Newcastle Jets earlier this year, the defenders will collide with themselves. Let’s stop this façade. A player falling over at the slightest touch is not a skill to be lauded or the sign of a genius. It’s gamesmanship to be kind, cheating to be blunt.

One concern with Del Piero and his Humpty Dumpty tactics is that young Australian players are going to imitate Del Piero and attempt to “draw the foul”. (I really dislike this phrase) The other important concern is that the number of “fouls” committed on Del Piero has a detrimental effect on the match as a spectacle. I love to watch a good football match with flowing moves and attackers using their skills to beat defenders. Where there are maybe 40 free kicks in a game however the match becomes much less enjoyable.

I think back to the days of Garrincha, Pele, Stanley Matthews, Johan Cryuff and George Best, all wonderful dribblers of the ball. These truly great players would never have let an opponent bring them down, if at all possible but would delight in the many ways in which they could go past their opponents and in the case of Best, often beat the same player twice.

The Del Piero “brand” itself guarantees that 90% of his tumbles are rewarded with a free kick primarily because he is Alessandro Del Piero. Referees have double standards and should treat Del Piero exactly as they would other players. Jeronimo Neumann from Adelaide United, going to ground in similar situations, would accumulate many cards but Del Piero is apparently immune to censure. Del Piero is not the only guilty player but is the most prolific in earning free kicks. There are many A-League players, including Thomas Broich and Matt Simon who also come to mind for exaggerating the extent of the tackle. I do not condone their behaviour either.

The A-League undoubtedly needs players of the calibre of Alessandro Del Piero – football superstars who can generate crowds and help grow the game in Australia. What Australian football doesn’t need is the boring spectacle of a game stopping every 90 seconds because Humpty Dumpty has fallen off his wall again.

Copyright 2013

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