Here’s the article I’d much rather be writing this morning: Arsenal face a tough test in Zagreb to kick off their 16th consecutive Champions League campaign . But events yesterday forced my hand and now here I am writing about yet another young player who had his leg broken playing football.
When I woke up yesterday the news was starting to spread that Jack Wilshere required surgery to fix a hairline fracture in his “good” ankle. This was the ankle which was nearly broken last year by a poorly timed and aggressive challenge by Manchester United defender Paddy McNair.
Football fans on Twitter reacted to the news in typical fashion, “taking the mickey” and calling Jack Wilshere, Jack Wheelchair. The hashtag trended enough to make the Independent report on it and that means that fans of all clubs (including Arsenal) participated.
It’s an unedifying sight to see football fans act like this and I’m sure the vast majority of the people who love the game would agree with me that people who laugh at player injuries are the human equivalent of that guy from Karate Kid who yells out “get him a body bag”. This behavior masquerades as “club tribalism” and to a certain extent that’s true. Because just a few hours later, the same Man United fans who were mocking Wilshere’s injury were sending out heartfelt “prayers” for their player, Luke Shaw.
For those who don’t know, Luke Shaw, Man United fullback, had his leg broken by an absurd tackle made by PSV’s Hector Moreno in last night’s Champions League opening match between the two teams. It was the 15th minute of the game and Shaw was dribbling into the box, he split his markers, and Moreno, seeing the danger, slid in recklessly and with his trailing leg snapped Shaw’s standing leg in two.
Incredibly, the referee didn’t even call a foul on the play and this, for me, is the real failure.
This isn’t Moreno’s first ride, folks. He broke his own leg making the exact same type of tackle on Arjen Robben at the 2014 Brazil World Cup (en Español). And he made the exact same type of tackle on Ashley Young, in the very game he broke Luke Shaw’s leg:
Football has made progress on tackling down the years. The tackle from behind was outlawed, the two-footed tackle was outlawed, stud’s-up tackles were outlawed, and high tackling has been outlawed. But what still isn’t illegal are the scissors tackle and the idea that the amount of force used is irrelevant as long as the defender wins the ball.
The scissors tackle is what it looks like Moreno did. He lunged at the ball with one leg and followed through with his trailing leg. This trailing leg tackle is never going to win a ball and is always only going to take a player down. It also requires that the defender goes THROUGH the man, this means that by definition, the defender must use enough force to break a standing leg. The defender cannot complete this tackle without using enough force to break his opponent’s leg. It’s just not physically possible.
According to the current laws of the game, this tackle should be outlawed: by going through the man the defender uses excessive force to win the ball. That is and always should be a red card.
But oddly, it’s not seen as a red card offense. Not only did the referee (and his various and sundry assistants) not see a foul, but UEFA ruled out using replays to retroactively punish Moreno.
This is where the players need to step in and do something about the laws of the game. I think the players need to sue FIFA, UEFA, and the Premier League and force them to do something about player safety. The players in the NFL did just that and forced the NFL to change their rules in order to limit concussions . Concussions in the NFL are far more numerous than broken legs in football but the very types of tackles and formations that were most likely to produce concussions were outlawed.
I’m not suggesting that the NFL fixed their concussion problems after the lawsuit and I don’t think that Football players suing FIFA, UEFA, and the Premier League will prevent all future broken legs. But it’s very clear that the laws of the game are there to protect players from exactly the kind of tackle that broke Luke Shaw’s leg. And it’s also clear that UEFA, FIFA, and the Premier League are refusing to use retroactive punishment and video punishment in order to penalize players like Moreno who commit these acts of violence and thus to reduce the number of these tackles in the future.
It’s going to take a career ending injury and a player who is brave enough to sue to change these rules and truly protect these players. Until then, unless FIFA, UEFA, and the Premier League choose to crack down on these plays, we will see more broken legs, more players in wheelchairs, and more young careers threatened.