During the French Ligue 1 match between PSG and Angers, Paris striker Edinson Cavani scored from a penalty kick and removed his jersey unveiling a message in memory of the Brazilian team (video). Referee Frank Schneider cautioned him with a yellow card - which is prescribed by the Laws of the Game if a player removes his jersey or pulls it over his head. In the post match interview, Cavani said the following:
Something similar happened in the Dutch division match between Vitesse and Zwolle: Vitesse attacker Nathan who removed his shirt while celebrating a goal, giving a tribute to Chapecoense and two of his friends who died in the plane crash. Referee Jochem Kamphuis - in contrary to his French colleague - did not caution Nathan for that.
The Dutch football association KNVB has now officially praised Kamphuis for that. Gijs de Jong, operating director of the KNVB, said that "of course there are rules, but for us this is an exception to the rule". Furthermore, he highlighted that referees are "humans of flesh and blood" and added that Kamphuis' reaction to the incident "felt perfect". See how Kamphuis explained his decision.
Since July 2016, Law 5 supports the KNVB's point of view:
"Decisions will be made to the best of the referee`s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’ and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game."
But the laws also say:
"Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images. Players must not reveal undergarments that show political, religious, personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than the manufacturer`s logo. For any infringement the player and/or the team will be sanctioned by the competition organiser, national football association or to be justified by FIFA."
So - apart from removing the jersey while celebrating a goal - it is doubtful whether such messages can be tolerated or even praised in general. I personally believe that common sense and humanity both support refraining from issuing a card here. The question is: Where to draw the line? What is still in line with "humanity" and what is not? In a conversation with our user Hagi the latter asked me what decision should be taken if someone e.g. mourns the death of the Pope. Or Nelson Mandela. Or Fidel Castro. Where to draw the line?
However of course, match officials are used to both consider each match incident separately but equally put them into a wider context. So it is not ultimately necessary to draw a line, you might argue.
You could also say that as long as the match official shows the card with modesty and empathic explanations - what Schneider seems to have done - then a yellow card is fully accepted by everyone. Media reports from Germany proof that this is not the case though where Schneider was partly criticized for a lack of game feeling.
But you might also argue that as soon as comparable actions happen within the same league - imagine: even on the same matchday and in the additional time of two matches with the same kick-off-time - two different reactions to such incidents, i.e. one referee issuing yellow and the other referee not giving any card, will become a problem.
Although I highly appreciate and like the KNVB's and Kamphuis' behavior during and after the game, I consider it as rather problematic for the reasons mentioned above. Anyway, such events luckily do not happen that often so that the KNVB well used Kamphuis' decision to send a signal of humanity and maybe also to enhance the image of referees in the football community.
What do you think? Discuss and vote!