What's the difference between Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri?

Manchester City’s Samir Nasri was dismissed from the pitch by referee Mike Jones in the 44th minute of their 4-3 victory at Norwich City on Saturday for violent conduct – he squared up to Sebastian Bassong after he’d been mown down by the Norwich defender’s tackle.

The referee showed Nasri a straight red card after a brief exchange with his assistant and rightly so in my opinion – any violence or physical aggression towards another player or a match official should be, as it is under FIFA regulations, illegal.

However, flashback to the previous weekend to Old Trafford when Manchester United striker Robin van Persie squared up to Swansea City’s Ashley Williams – not only did he ‘square up’ but furiously pushed and shoved him, held back by his teammates and fellow professionals.

Robin van Persie received a yellow card and, subsequently, the incident cannot be reviewed by an FA disciplinary panel as it’s deemed to have been ‘dealt with’ by the referee Michael Oliver.

I must first qualify my perspective as neutral – I’m neither a United nor a City fan – but I simply cannot understand why there is this disparity from officials.

Some might be inclined to suggest that van Persie had a ‘right’ to feel aggrieved after Williams ‘cleared’ the ball point-blank at the Dutchman’s head – Williams was also booked for unsportsmanlike conduct and, again, rightly so.

But, by the same logic, surely Samir Nasri had the ‘right’ to feel aggrieved by Bassong’s challenge that swiped his legs out from under him and sent him hurtling face-first in to the turf – a blatant foul and, moreover, a dangerous and reckless challenge.

When Nasri got up and stuck his face in Bassong’s it was a flashpoint – the referee could have given a yellow or red card to either, neither or both players and, equally Bassong was lucky to remain on the pitch himself.

I wouldn’t be bringing it up if it hadn’t been for the van Persie incident just one week previous – Ashley Williams, despite Ferguson’s claims, did no real harm to United’s star striker.

I might be in a minority of one but I think van Persie felt more of a bruise to his ego than anything else. He may also have initially though he had been kicked in the head and, understandably, reacted accordingly.

Should all and any ‘violent conduct’ warrant a straight red card or should it warrant a yellow? I’m probably leaning towards the former but there is an element of discretion required here and an understanding of individual cases but, nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder why there is still such inconsistency in officiating football.

The more cynical of fans might even suggest it was the colour of the shirts that decided the colour of the cards – in the same way that the FA chose not to discipline Sir Alex Ferguson for his aggressive behavior towards the officials in United following game against Newcastle when several of his Premier League counterparts have been banned for the same or even less.

I’m not much of conspiracy theorist but I think, by those that are, questions will be raised and those questions could very easily be answered if there was a higher standard of fairness, accuracy and, crucially, consistency in the officiating of football.

I do not condone violent or aggressive behavior whatsoever and I do support harsh penalties for infringements but I would like to see that executed across the board.

The sport cannot continue with this karmic ideal of ‘you win some, you lose some’ or ‘it evens out in the end’. Those myths set a precedent that illegal behaviors are acceptable. Sometimes, at least.

image: © little-pete

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