Emmanuel Adebayor has been handed a £25,000 fine and a suspended 2-match ban today by the FA. The punishment relates to his excessive celebration following the goal he scored against Arsenal back on the 12th of September. For me, this represents yet another bungle from one of football’s governing bodies, similar to the ban Eduardo was given by UEFA for “simulation” which has since been rescinded on appeal.
I am not for a moment trying to defend what Adebayor did. As the player acknowledged immediately following the game, to deliberately goad the supporters of the team you are playing is irresponsible, undignified and just not what football is all about. Having been showered with abuse throughout the game, Adebayor was entitled to thoroughly enjoy his goal against Arsenal, it was after all the perfect response to his critics. However in running the full length of the pitch to taunt the Arsenal fans, he lowered himself to the level of the foul-mouthed fans, and merely fueled accusations that he does not always draw motivation from the right sources. Adebayor is not the first player to celebrate a goal in front of opposition fans, and he will certainly not be the last, but his actions were regrettable and he spoiled what could have been a wonderful day for him.
However, although I do not wish to see players willfully inciting unrest amongst fans, I am also keen to see consistency applied by football’s governing bodies. Otherwise, the laws which control the game is played will be eroded to the point of ineffectiveness. Mark Clattenburg gave Adebayor a yellow card for his goal celebration during the game. Therefore, the referee saw the event and administered the punishment he felt was necessary, and that should be the end of the story. In imposing a suspended 2-match ban, the FA are not only effectively saying that the referee got that decision wrong, but crucially are intervening in order to “restore order”.
In response to this, I return to the point I made in relation to the ban Eduardo initially received for diving against Celtic during a Champions League qualifier; reversing in-game refereeing decisions makes a mockery of every instance in the past where a referee’s punishment has been shown to be inadequate by TV evidence but the relevant governing body has claimed to be powerless. The significance is, in imposing a retrospective punishment, the FA have in Adebayor’s undermined the official who refereed the game.
In 2005, an awful challenge by Michal Essien was punished by referee Rob Styles with a yellow card. Essien is not a particularly dirty player, but his challenge on that occasion was very dangerous. Having reviewed video footage of the incident, Styles was keen to impose a red card instead of yellow, but FIFA actually intervened to prevent this from happening. There are plenty of other examples just like this one.
Manchester City are not set to appeal the decision, and are probably just happy enough to have Adebayor back in action at the weekend. And as long as the Man City striker keeps his nose clean until Christmas, he’ll only have to pay £25,000, which (crazily) is not a lot of money for him. But I am concerned by the FA’s decision, I think they have shown themselves to be weak in the face of a public outcry. I don’t think Adebayor can be held responsible for the behaviour of the fans who injured a steward in response to his celebration, and as much as footballers do get paid these days, I also think it is important to remember that they are human. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of his time at Arsenal and based purely on what went on during the game itself, had we been in his position ourselves, I’m pretty sure most of us would have felt compelled to give a little back. Therefore although what he did was wrong, for me the incident did not warrant the lack of consistency shown by the FA.