Should Benny see a ban?
As I type this post, based on a number of long and short term injury layoffs within our side, Tottenham are facing a looming squad depth crisis waiting to rear it's ugly head. With this in mind, I should be pleased that Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been spared a ban for a horrible, potentially injury-inducing challenge on Franco di Santo last night in our Premier League match against Wigan, thus postponing said crisis in one area of our squad at the very least. But I am most certainly not.
The fact of the matter is that it may be cosmic rebalancing that Spurs get a break after being screwed by a number of bad refereeing calls this season, but it is plainly still not the way things ought to be. Benoit's tackle was at the very best lazy to a point of dangerous complacency and none of us have a leg to stand on when it comes to defending him (pun certainly intended).
Bad tackles are bad tackles, and by stating that it is not a cause for concern, even a good thing that Spurs should be on the end of a wrong call from the referee over this issue implicitly suggests that such horrible play can be forgiven if either a) it comes from (well-liked) member of our squad, or b) our team as a collective has earned the carte blanche to hurt people from having our own players similarly clattered about without penalty. Neither of these propositions are and ever will be true.
Let's start with the latter point. Put this all into context, some will say. Mario Balotelli stamped on Scott Parker's head two weeks ago and escaped a red card when he completely and totally deserved it, and that call ruined the game. This is not a suitable premise on which to base the argument that we should be less disappointed by Benny's actions. By trying to put what he did into a different context like that we not only sanction bad fouling in general under certain conditions, we make light of the serious harm that could have been to done di Santo last night as well.
Furthermore, addressing the former and arguably more important point, it is also particularly important that emotional responses to players do not cloud what should be straightforward and rational decisions. I know Benny is arguably the most popular Spur on our books; he's certainly my favourite player. But to say that this gives him the right to more leniency is a very dangerous postion to hold indeed. I'm of the view that it's Balotelli's gilted status as an entertainer in my people's eyes that has led him towards the feeling of invincibility that underpins horrible fouls. He is, in effect, a joke that no one seems willing to put a stop to before someone gets hurt. It is of paramount important we never have a player in our side who occupies a similar position.
All of these points are somewhat self-evident, I know. But I feel it's especially pertinent to make this point now when the FA is facing one of the biggest headaches I can remember coming it's way over refereeing. The crushing weight of expectation on officials to make calls one or the other way in different situations is in my eyes starting to have negative repercussions on the way games are being handled by these figures, with decisions being made apparently by the strength of the pressures that referees are experiencing on and off the pitch.
With all this in mind, the time has never been more right to face up to the truth when it's staring us in the face. don't want to see players hurt; I don't want to see officials paralyzed into making wrong calls. We cannot stand behind our players when they do wrong- nothing, even appeals to league positions, chances of European football, or karmic justice can outweigh the importance of honesty.