Danny Odum

In Defense of Robben

Created on Jul. 05, 2014 10:14 AM EST

So much was made of the last penalty against Arjen Robben in so little time that something must be said to bring things into balance and perspective. Integrity was called into question, along with sincerity. Mr. Robben is a professional forward playing soccer for his nation at the highest level. The word controversy has been abused in the last two weeks, regarding play at the World Cup. ESPN is doing the game a massive disservice with the endless replays from angles that are not available to the referees in realtime, making armchair experts of everyone willing to entertain and then re-entertain “controversial” points. 

In a game where the balance of power was unfairly leveled against Robben earlier in the first half, where he was fouled three times on one play and nothing was called, a professional uses every tool at his disposal to enhance the odds of his cause or side. So the perspective becomes he is luring defensive players to foul him. Yes he is and should be at all times. That is the very nature of deceptive footwork as a secondary function. The purpose is to get the defensive player off balance. Primarily the striker would want the defender to clearly move out of the way and proceed toward goal. However, that may not happen. In such cases, when pinned against the end line, the next best choice is to get a corner kick out of the situation or to get your opponent to clearly foul you. The chances of Robben scoring (or even assisting) from that deep position are minuscule. Defenders should realize this. Defenders with two or three assisting defenders should especially realize this and not be lured into the sucker foul. 

It is a simple matter of professionalism. Had the Mexican defenders been professional enough to not directly attack Robben, but cut off his angles, the game would have gone to extra time. The chances would have been reset. Defenders who had already tempted fate by fouling earlier surely should not have played those odds. Soccer has a way of leveling itself. That is why the match is so long in relation to other sports. That is why the sport has fewer judicial pauses than other sports. That is the beauty of the game. Arjen Robben did not only run to the box looking to be a foul victim in the last 15 minutes of that game. He was working from the midfield forward in an attempt to get his side back on track. He worked the ball from 50 yards out on several occasions, attempting to make crosses and strike at the Mexican defense.. So when he saw a lack of composure in the Mexican defense, he struck.That is his professional duty. The referee called it, perhaps as a makeup for fouling the earlier call. That is his professional duty. The game leveled itself. 

Is it fair? The answer would be, yes. It was absolutely fair when Ochoa happened to put is face in front of Dutch shot to stop it. It is fair when younger, faster players can cover the field more quickly and increase scoring opportunities. It is fair when a wise player uses every tactic to gain an advantage for his team. There are no “soft” fouls or “hard” fouls in FIFA rules. This is a very “nuevo” concept. Making contact with the player in scoring position is a penalty. The problem with soccer has become the amount of interference referees inject into the game by not placing whistle to mouth more often, clearly drawing the lines for defenders. Most people agree that Pepe violated the personal space rule by head butting. How many of them noticed the transgression against Chiellini by an Uruguay player by touching and pulling his jersey back upon his shoulder as he pleaded to the ref in the wake of the Suarez issue? That’s the hard vs soft mentality. The game would be better if refs and viewers stopped trying to reinterpret the rules according to the standards of other games. 
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