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Spittles, dives and punches. When TV cameras unveil Calcio's dark side
De Rossi and Juan Jesus' suspension are only the last chapter of a 15-years saga. The first player banned due to TV replays was Ibrahim Ba in the 1999-2000 season
by Federico Formica
Punches, headbutts, spittles. Football, you know, isn't for mademoiselles. Since the sport was born, skirmishes and follies always existed. Benito Lorenzi (we wrote about him on SerieAddicted) was an authentic punch-ups master. But today, when the games are televised and shot by dozens of cameras, we really don't miss out anything. The three-game ban inflicted to Daniele De Rossi and Juan Jesus, who respectively punched Mauro Icardi and Alessio Romagnoli in the past saturday's Roma-Inter, is just the last chapter of a saga that started at the end of the 90s.

In the 1997-1998 season, the Italian Federation (FIGC) allowed the use of televised images as a proof for players' vilenesses. The sporting judge can use the video-proof only to inflict disciplinary sanctions and only if the referee – including his collaborators – did not see the scene on the pitch or was misleaded by a footballer (by floppers, for example).

 

But if you think that the truth and the objectivity of a televised image could have pacified the Italian tifosi, you're off the track. Actually, in the last 15 years the most fierce debates originated from the prova televisiva. Because images can even tell a double truth. It happened in the 1997-98 season with the Uruguayan Marcelo Zalayeta.

Due to TV images Zalayeta received a two-game ban for having simulated a foul in the penalty area in a Napoli-Juventus. But his club – Napoli – disclosed alternative footage – broadcasted by some local TV channels – that contradicted the sporting judge's decision. Napoli managed to prove that Zalayeta's apparently unjustified dive was due to a foul by the opponents’ defender Nicola Legrottaglie.

The ban was cancelled, but the shadow of doubt never did. The first ever ban due to TV replays was inflicted in the 1999-2000 season. The protagonist was the Senegalese Ibrahim “Ibou” Ba. Owned by Milan, he was playing for Perugia on loan.

Ibou had a great idea: to celebrate his debut in Umbria with a senseless headbutt (the ball was a million miles away) to Fabio Macellari, a Cagliari full-back. The four-game ban was then reduced to three. It doesn't hurt like a headbutt,but it's violence too: in the same season, during a burning Roma-Lazio derby, Roma's Brazilian defender Antonio Carlos Zago had a dispute with the Lazio player (and Argentinian!) Diego Simeone. Zago did not feel like arguing though, and closed the “conversation” with a voluminous spit in the current Atletico Madrid coach's face. The TV nailed Zago, who had to stop for three Sundays.

As a penalty box Rambo, Paolo Montero couldn't miss out on such an honour. In the 2000-2001 season, during an Inter-Juventus (final result: 2-2) the Uruguayan packed an absolutely gratuitous punch to Luigi Di Biagio. The referee missed the scene, but the moviola didn't. Montero was banned for three games.

But TV replays also punished floppers. The first to be banned in such a way in Serie A history was the Messina player Ivica Iliev. In a Messina-Ascoli (2005-2006 season) the Serb dived and celebrated like a madman as soon as the referee conceded an unfair penalty kick. We already talked about Zalayeta, but another episode that triggered endless debates was Milos Krasic's one. In a Bologna-Juventus game the Serb (who can be considered as a Juve one season wonder) fell as if a hit man had shot him from a bleacher. Thanks to TV replays, Krasic received a two-game suspension. But as in this world there's a hint of justice, the juventino Vincenzo Iaquinta missed the penalty kick.

In the 2012-2013 season, two longly debated episodes occurred within one month. On January 27th, in a Milan-Lazio (Coppa Italia quarter final), the glaring Brazilian Andre Dias threw a grapple to Mark Van Bommel laying him out. Nobody noticed the scene, but the TV images stitched him up and the Lazio defender was banned for three games.

 

One month later, another Milan player entered the spotlight of the “prova TV”. But, this time, not as a victim. In a Juventus-Milan, the French defender Phillippe Mexes (who is well-known to the Italian tifosi for his not-so-affable character) punched Marco Borriello by surprise. It was impossible for the referee to see the scene. Mexes acted like a Ninja: he was very fast. The sporting judge also was and the French was banned for three matches. That match – which was deciding for the Scudetto and ended in a draw - is one of the most debated ever in the recent Serie A history for many contested refereeing decisions.

TV replays caught also two azzurri players in 1994 and 2004. The first one was Mauro Tassotti and the episode is among the most famous in football's history. In the World Cup quarter final against Spain, he hit Luis Enrique with his elbow breaking the Spaniard's nose.

FIFA's anger pounced on Tassotti: he was punished with a huge eight-game ban. A nominal measure, as the current Milan assistant manager was 34 years old and the American World Cup would have been his last international competition anyway.

The second azzurro who was punished by a TV replay is Francesco Totti. The competition is Euro 2004, a disappointing tournament for the Italian side, which was eliminated at the group stage. In the opening match against Denmark, the Italian number 10 spat on his opponent Christian Poulsen, designated to Totti's man marking. Nobody saw anything neither during the match nor in the post-match. After a couple of hours, the Danish press spread an exclusive footage, which was indeed unmistakable. For the Roman fantasista, the Portuguese European Championship lasted 90 minutes.

Wednesday, March 5 th, 2014
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