Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration

FLASHPOINT: Melbourne Victory striker Besart Berisha taunts Melbourne City’s Dean Bouzanis after scoring last weekend. Picture: Getty ImagesTHE five-game suspension imposed this week on Melbourne City goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis reaffirmed a very clear message to A-League footballers – if you’re going to verbally abuse anyone, makeit a referee or linesman, not an opposition player.
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That is the only conclusion Sporting Declaration can reach after Bouzanis was banned for five times as long as his superstar teammate Tim Cahill, who took it upon himself to give referee Chris Beath a gobful …before he had even set foot on the pitch.

Cahill called Beath a “f—ing disgrace” and was stunned to be sent off before he had actually taken the field as a substitute.

Although profusely apologetic, the Socceroos veteranstill copped a week on the sidelines.

If it’s any consolation, he’ll be back in action a month earlier than Bouzanis, after the keeper’smuch-publicised clash with Melbourne Victory striker Besart Berisha.

If calling the whistle-blower a “f—ing disgrace” equates to a one-week ban, logic suggests Bouzanis must have delivered some truly heinous insult.

The whole spray was captured, and replayed ad nauseum, by Foxtel, and Bouzanis has since pleaded guilty to calling the Albanian import a “f—ing gypsy”, which apparently contravened guidelines referring to the“use of discriminatory language and/or gestures, including racist, religious, ethnic or sexist”.

Bouzanis has since apologised, copped his sanction and agreed to undertake an education course.

This left your columnist pondering two trains of thought.

Firstly, BesartBerisha strikes me as a bloke who gives at least as good as he gets. He is one of those fierce, in-your-face competitors loved by his teammates and hated by rivals.

Feisty, volatileand exudinga ruthless will to win, he is a serialantagonist. Players on other teams are not just opponents, they are his enemies.

In the particular incident involving Bouzanis, they both appeared to delight in taunting each other, especially after Berisha blasted home a penalty goal.

There was also a suggestion he may have tossed the ball at Bouzanis in a deliberately confrontationalmanner.

Regardless of the preceding provocation, since when didthe word “gypsy” become an intolerableslur?

Presumably the term is traditionally derogative and insulting in Berisha’s homeland, but what I find bizarre is that, had Bouzanis used some other vulgar profanity,(such as various parts of the anatomy or bodily functions), it would have been no big deal. Play on.

Instead he has beenleft wear the longest suspension handed out toany player this season.

I’m not condoning racism in any shape or form, but I do find it odd thatsoccer’s quest for a squeaky-clean image does not seem to extend to match-day officials.

Cahill cops one week, not five, for conduct that I would suggest was equally as inappropriate as Bouzanis’ blow-up.

He is, after all, the A-League’s highest-paid and highest-profile player.

Unfortunately his attitude towards the referee last weekappears to be something of a recurring theme, at all levels of the game.

Consider some of the other sanctions handed down in the A-League this season.

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic –who seems to complain about the refs every week –was fined $3000 after pointing out his team had won only one game under the officiating ofJarred Gillett.

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat was slugged$5000 after querying the referee’s integrity when his team lost their FFA Cup semi- final.

Perth coach Kenny Lowe copped a two-game sideline ban for a “heated discussion” with referee Alan Milliner during the half-time break of a match against Melbourne City.

Perth skipper Rostyn Griffiths was rubbed out for two games for berating refereeStephen Lucas during the recent 2-all draw with Newcastle.

And even the supposedly mild-mannered Adelaide coach Guillermo Amor was issued a one-game touchline ban for grabbing fourth official Adam Fielding by the arm during a loss to Perth.

All of which would appear slaps on the wrist compared toBouzanis’ five-game banishment.

Then considerjustice in the English Premier League.

Newcastle United defender Jonjo Shelvey was recentlysuspended for five matches and fined £100,000 forallegedly calling Wolves and Morocco midfielder Romain Saiss a “smelly Arab”.

Serves him right, most would say.

Maybe so, but it does seem slightly incongruous alongside the four-game,£25,000 penaltyArsenal manager Arsene Wenger incurred last month for abusinga referee, and then shoving the fourth official as he was ordered into the dressing room.

The bottom line is that in most sporting endeavours, rival competitors will occasionally lose their cool and say something unacceptably offensive.

But few codes treat the match-day officials with such little respect as soccer.

And after last week’s events, I find myself wondering who set the worst example for young fans: Dean Bouzanis or Tim Cahill?