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2009 pre-season: The disgraceful exhibition of the media and Uefa against Eduardo

By Tony Attwood

Each pre-season seems to have its own memories and special event.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes outrageous.  But never more outrageous than the ravings of press and the Scottish FA against Eduardo, in the Champions League preliminary round tie against Celtic.   Technically this wasn’t pre-season at all, as the league had already started, but in earlier years when we did play the preliminary round game prior to the season starting, and I included those matches, so it seems churlish not to here.

But, I should take things in order, of course, so first off the transfers – which are easy.  Because Arsenal made just one significant signing – Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax for £10m on 19 June 2009.

Of the several players leaving, only two were regular first teamers.  Adebayor went to Man City for £25m on 20 July.  He had cost just £3m three years earlier, and as a quick profit sale must rank alongside Anelka who moved from £250,000 to £25m also in three years.  Three years after joining City he was told he was not part of their plans and could leave.

Nine days later City also took Kole Toure for £16m.  He had cost £150,000 in 2002.

The Friendlies

  • 18 July 2009: Barnet 2 Arsenal 2 (Arshavin, Barazite)
  • 21 July 2009: SC Columbia (Austria) 1 Arsenal 7 (Bendtner 2, Ramsey 2 Van Persie 2, Gallas)
  • 27 July 2009: Szombathelvi Haladas (Austria) 0 Arsenal 5 (Bendtner 2, Eduardo 2, Van Persie)
  • 29 July 2009: Hannover 96 1 Arsenal 1 (Fabregas)
  • 1 August 2009: Arsenal 2 Atletico Madrid 1 (Emirates Cup) (Arshavin 2)
  • 2 August 2009: Arsenal 3 Rangers 0 (Emirates Cup) (Wilshere 2, Eduardo)
  • 8 August 2009: Valencia 2 Arsenal 0

If there is one thing that stands out from those matches, it was Jack Wilshere aged 17, scoring two against Rangers.  He just seemed an almighty talent.

But then came….

Champions League
  • 18 August 2009: Celtic 0 Arsenal 2
  • 26 August 2009: Arsenal 3 Celtic 1
The season actually began on 15 August as Arsenal hammered Everton away 6-1 in the opening match.  Arsenal were actually trying to make it 7 in the 89th minute when Everton scored their goal.
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Then came Celtic away, a match full of local fervour but Gallas redirected Cesc Fabregas’ shot two minutes before the interval and Gary Caldwell turned Gael Clichy’s cross past his own keeper 20 minutes before the end.
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On 22 August Arsenal played their second league match and beat Portsmouth 4-1, making it 10 goals in two games.
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Which should have set up a simple game against Celtic on 26 August.

And in fact it was straightforward until after the match the Celtic midfielder Massimo Donati demanded that Eduardo da Silva receive a European ban, for what he perceived as diving to win the penalty as the goalkeeper went in with a sliding challenge – a challenge which in itself could have been worthy of at least a yellow card on any other day.

It is, in my opinion, important to understand the sequence.  The referee gave a penalty and nothing else, the assistant behind the goal gave nothing but a penalty, but AFTER the game a player from the opposition side demanded Eduardo is punished.

Now you might think, if you don’t recall the situation, that the player would whip up a storm in a teacup and then it would all fade away.   Players’ don’t change referees decision after a game.  Unless of course Arsenal are involved.  The storm certainly did arise, but it didn’t go away.

Eduardo should be banned, says SFA chief  screamed the Telegraph on 27 August, and  Celtic Players Back UEFA Charge Against ‘Cheat’ Eduardo shouted the ever excitable goal.com

Unbelievably by 29 August Uefa had given in and Eduardo retrospectively was charged with diving!

A manager, players and the hysterical media had got Uefa Referees’ Committee to change the ref’s decision!

In fact the Uefa disciplinary panel had a teleconference over the matter and decided on that basis that Eduardo had dived.    It was probably the most outrageous piece of manipulation by Uefa ever.

And even worse, the assessors used video footage, the use of which was actually banned by Uefa under its own regulations!!!

Finally Eduardo’s  two-match ban for diving was thrown out on 13 September and was reported in the press as a “dramatic u-turn” etc etc.

Uefa’s appeals body actually managed to meet and annulled the decision within minutes.  The U-turn will be widely regarded as a blow to attempts to crack down on diving shouted the Guardian presuming guilt even after the player had been found innocent.  It was not the Guardian’s best moment.

Nor was it when they threw in the comment that “Given the debate which followed the incident, the decision to lift the ban will cause surprise.”

That was a stunningly outrageous given that the entire furore was set up by the opposition team and the media in the first place.

“Following examination of all the evidence, notably the declarations of both the referee and the referees’ assessor, as well as the various video footage,” said Uefa, “it was not established to the panel’s satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty.   Therefore, the decision of the Uefa control and disciplinary body of 1 September, in which the player was suspended for two Uefa club competition matches, is annulled.”

Wenger, described in the Guardian as “The Frenchman” said, I find it a complete disgrace and unacceptable…. It’s funny in football because you can break the legs of players and it doesn’t make a debate for anybody. But this case has been all over the world and Eduardo has been treated like he’s killed someone.”

The whole episode threw Arsenal off track.  Having been on such a free-scoring winning streak the club lost its next two matches and slipped to 8th, but recovered to win six and draw one of the subsequent seven – although that was not enough to take them back to the top of the league.

The pre-season series thus far

2 comments to 2009 pre-season: The disgraceful exhibition of the media and Uefa against Eduardo

  • Hrishi

    Tony,
    Eduardo’s ‘dive’ must be placed in its proper context. There was minimal contact and Eduardo went down a little too easily but this also came a year after his horrific leg break against Birmingham. But that is always an argument against punishing people for going down easily- fear of injury. Players would rather not collide with the opposing player at that pace. These things make it very difficult to differentiate between a foul and a dive. But would we be mindful of such circumstances had the roles been reversed?

    While the rules on retrospective punishment for diving remain unclear, it has been something that many people, Arsene Wenger included, have called for. Hence, I don’t think Celtic’s reaction was that unsurprising either. I agree that the issue was blown about proportion. But that was the case with Arjen Robben’s ‘dive’ against Mexico in the World Cup as well. There was contact at his ankles and he made the most of it by going down almost comically. I felt that the reaction was harsh on Robben, just as it was on Eduardo- but when you have media that gets carried away too easily, these things happen.

  • john lynch

    Also, contrast the post-match media frenzy with its customary silence over the numerous “actual” dives by such accomplished exponents of the art, such as Gerrard, Rooney and several MU players, or even the approval from BBC pundits, such as Shearer, for certain players “using all their experience” to “draw” a foul, plus the view (applied selectively, of course) that if there is “contact”, a player is “entitled” to go down.

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