LaLiga Santander 2020-2021

The position of the arm, the diffuse concept of “interpretation” and the VAR regulations determine the differences between some actions and others.

Militao regrets the penalty, this Sunday, against Sevilla.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOUAFP

When the controversial Real Madrid-Seville ended, Zinedine Zidane He went quietly and politely to demand explanations from the referee of the duel, Juan Martnez Munuera. The French coach (like Real Madrid in general) had not finished with the decision to annul the clamorous penalty of Bono a Benzema to mark a previous one by hand of Militao, action that determined the outcome of the clash and who knows if the League championship. Was the referee correct?

The key lies in the very gestural explanation that Martnez Munuera offers to Zidane while they dialogue. The Valencian referee, by way of example, raises his hand to the height of his shoulder and seems to explain that this is the reason for the sanction. And it is. The International Football Association Board, the world body in charge of drafting and annually reviewing the rules of the game, clearly includes the assumption of the penalty in its rules for the 2020/21 season: “the hand or arm is placed above the height of the shoulder or beyond it. “

One of the arguments used in recent hours as a defense is the possibility that the ball will touch Militao’s own shoulder earlier. The repetitions do not make it clear if this happens, but a priori it is irrelevant, since the only exception that is collected to the phrase above between quotation marks is the following: “unless the ball is played first voluntarily with another part of the body, and then touch this on the hand or arm. ” That is to say, it will be necessary to conclude that the alleged hit with the (legal) shoulder is voluntary and that the back hand is a consequence of that previous touch to conclude that Militao’s hand is not a penalty. Difficult to sustain, although not impossible, of course.

Hand over shoulder

In fact, in its last informative appearance, the Technical Committee of referees explicitly referred to this type of play, giving as an example one in which scar Duarte (Levante) touched the ball with his hand over his shoulder after the ball hit him on his head. In that same appearance, they recognized that it is a type of play that is causing problems for the referees. In the eight actions that had taken place so far (March 2) in the League, only in one did the referee signal a penalty on his own initiative. In another five it was corrected by the VAR and the remaining two were not sanctioned by mistake by the referee or by the VAR.

Another argument, used by Zidane himself on the field in the post-match interview with Movistar +, is an alleged comparative offense. The French coach cited a hand of Joan Jordn in the Sevilla area at the beginning of the second half that was not punished. An action in which the Spanish midfielder has his arm bent and slightly detached from the body, where he hits the ball without any previous rebound, neither his own nor someone else’s.

Joan Jordn's hand.
Joan Jordn’s hand.

Here we enter the complex terrain of interpretation. The rule in this regard says that it is not considered a fault “if the hand or arm are close to the body and are not in an unnatural position with which more space can be taken up.” Just as the position of a hand over the shoulder is an objective matter, the concepts “close to the body” and “taking up more space” are diffuse and require arbitration interpretation.

It is the same with the hand of Felipe in the last Madrid derby. The defender of Atltico had his arm separated from the body (below the shoulder) when the ball hit him. Separate enough? The referee of that match was warned by the VAR and went to the monitor to review the action. After a long time reviewing the action, he determined that the hand of the Brazilian central defender was not punishable. Again, the interpretive criterion comes into play.

Confusion with the VAR

Less doubts seems to offer another of Real Madrid’s recent complaints, a hand of Miranda in the 0-0 of two weeks ago against Betis in Valdebebas. Here are three possibilities: that the referee understood that the Betis player received a previous foul from Militao (it does not seem so), that at the moment of impact with the ball the hand was no longer over the shoulder (more than debatable) or that Simply put, both the referee and the VAR would make the wrong decision (the most likely option).

Miranda's hand.
Miranda’s hand.

And in all these plays, including that of Militao against Sevilla, an even more diffuse concept comes into play, that VAR only enters to correct an action when “a clear and manifest error” occurs. Are all exposed? Just any of them? It is difficult to offer a clear and indisputable answer. Actions, in any case, that contribute to the confusion that exists in Primera’s changing rooms (also in newsrooms and among fans in general) about the hands. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the regulatory criteria for sanctioning them is modified each year, so that a hand like Militao’s may not be sanctioned next season. The Neverending Story.

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