Gianluigi Buffon crossed a line and efforts to defend him are wrong | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.04.2018
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Opinion

Gianluigi Buffon crossed a line and efforts to defend him are wrong

Juventus and Gianluigi Buffon suffered a cruel blow on Wednesday, but that doesn't justify the keeper's reaction on or off the pitch. The rules shouldn't be bent, regardless of player or situation, says DW's Matt Pearson

"I could have said anything to him and he should have had the sense to forgive me anything I did, because what he did is to commit a crime against sportsmanship."

This particular missive from the red-carded Buffon got a little buried among the endless sharing, discussion and dissection of the goalkeeper's "rubbish bin for a heart" swipe at referee Michael Oliver and the incident that preceded it. But it is telling.

The Italian keeper, 40, had just been dismissed for an aggressive and sustained display of dissent after Oliver awarded Real Madrid the injury time spot kick that Cristiano Ronaldo would eventually dispatch to settle the tie.

Mehdi Benatia's tackle was clumsy. I thought it was a penalty, but plenty of others don't.

In short, it was a decision that even after watching numerous replays from numerous angles, could have gone either way.

Read More: The one that got away - Buffon denied fairytale ending

Of course, it was a bitter blow for Juve and their reaction, while over-the-top in its intensity, was understandable. But so was Oliver's decision to punish the ringleader of the harassers. Buffon's notion that officials should "have the sense to forgive me anything" strongly suggests he's bought in to the hype around him as a "statesman of the game" a little too much.

The veteran keeper has always come across well and seems to be liked by most that have met him but he's no saint. In a critical Serie A match in 2012 he scooped Sulley Muntari's header out from at least 30 centimeters over the goalline then protested his innocence.

"It was all moving so quickly that I didn’t realise the ball had crossed the line,” Buffon claimed after the match “But even if I had realised, I certainly wouldn’t have helped the referee.”

Even if he was the flawless role model some have painted him as, it wouldn't matter. Oliver's job, and the job of all referees, is to make the best and most informed decision they can, given the information at hand. That's what the English official did. Yes Juventus and Buffon can protest but they run the risk of serious consequences. And they're not the only side to concede a controversial goal late on.

But it's not just Buffon who has taken the decision as some kind of moral sleight, with elements of the Italian press also towing that particular line.

"Every referee knows well that there are moments in which your whistle has a different weight and so you only punish (or should punish) obvious fouls," read a Gazetta dello Sport column on Thursday.

"The penalty? You can give and not give, personally I would have avoided it ten seconds from the end," said former Juve and Italy great Andrea Pirlo.

Nonsense. If a referee judges that an offense has ben committed, it is his duty to give the decision, even if that decision means an unfortunate end to a great Champions League career or comes in the dying embers of a great comeback. The state of the game or the players involved are irrelevant. By that logic, all decisions at the World Cup should go in favor of Lionel Messi because he needs a World Cup to complete his collection.

Buffon's post-match rage continued with the suggestion that: "if you can't handle the pressure and have the courage to make a decision, then you should just sit in the stands and eat your crisps."

Again, nonsense. While the emotions would still have been running high, that sentiment stands up to no scrutiny. Oliver made a decision in a high pressure moment, just as Benatia did moments before and just as countless players and referees do every day. It is fine for a player a fan or a commentator to question a referee's decision. But let's not begin to entertain the idea that narrative should make decisions. 

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