Officials under fire as the Old Lady trundle on in Italy

RESULTS Sat 27 Oct Siena 0-0 Palermo, AC Milan 1-0 Genoa Sun 28 Oct Catania 0-1 Juventus, Bologna 1-3 Inter Milan, Fiorentina 2-0 Lazio, Pescara 0-0 Atalanta, Sampdoria 0-1 Cagliari, Torino 1-3 Parma, Napoli 1-0 Chievo, Roma 2-3 Udinese

We have become used to players attempting to gain an advantage by whatever means possible. But when the officials become compliant in failing to enforce the basic laws of the game, we have a problem.

Interruption of the rules is one thing, but failure to see whether a player is offside is becoming the bane of Italian football on a regular basis. There never seems to be a week that passes without some contentious decision or another, which makes one wonder what is going through the minds of those in charge.

There were a number of incidents in Serie A this weekend which highlighted that officials are losing control once more; those who used to be termed linesmen, the extra two “linesmen” behind each goal to rule on the ball crossing the goalline and the fourth official, there to hold up the board and tell-tale on coaches daring to wander out of their technical area.

There were senses of injustice from the San Siro to Sicily as offside decisions were either not given or rewarded when the replays clearly showed the opposite to what had occurred in the opinion of the referee or his assistant.

Leading the walk of shameful decisions was Andrea Gervasoni and his assistants in Catania where the home side had been celebrating for all of 44 seconds, long enough to restart the match again, before their joy turned to disbelief as Gonzalo Bergessio’s effort was chalked off.

The striker had Kwadwo Asamoah between him and the goal when Nicolas Spolli’s header clipped team-mate Francesco Lodi’s knee and the ball came back off the post for the Argentine to finish off the rebound. But all to no avail.

Gervasoni was heading back to the halfway line, as was his assistant Luca Maggiani (who has been officiating in Serie A since 2000), when the latter seemed to have a moment of doubt. It certainly did not go unnoticed by the Juventus substitutes and Simone Pepe in particular, who raised the issue that something was maybe amiss.Juventus players appeal to referee Andrea GervasoniWith the seed of doubt already planted, Maggiani, who was microphoned-up to the rest of the team, decided to have a word with the official inside the area, Nicola Rizzoli, on who had got the final touch from the cross. When he was informed it had been Lodi, he then decided that Bergessio had been offside which was completely incorrect.

If Maggiani had stuck with his initial instinct that there was no offside involved regardless of who got the final touch then he would not have left himself open to accusations from Catania president Antonio Pulvirenti, who claimed he had been swayed into changing his decision by mob rule from the Juve players. On reflection that was not the case.

Maggiani had already gone back on his initial decision by his hesitation and the fact that he was surrounded by the players was only a consequence.

If ruling out what was a legitimate goal was not bad enough, Maggiani compounded his own misery in the second half by failing to spot that Nicklas Bendtner was a leg and a torso offside when he received the ball inside the area. The former Arsenal man saw his shot saved but Arturo Vidal followed up to tap home for the only goal of the game.

In Italy the termed used to express that referees are in throe to the big clubs is “psychological slavery”. Knowing who holds ultimate power or is perceived to means that you will naturally be predisposed to favour them.

It is a well-held belief in Italy that referees will always be biased to the elite. The final whistle had barely been sounded than a Napoli fan site had posted a photograph of Gervasoni with the caption “Juve’s new top player.”

Bookmaker Paddy Power activated its “Justice Payout” system to pay back punters who had backed the Sicilians to win and in a statement made it clear what they thought of the outcome: “Sometimes a result is so unfair that it is a fair reimbursement.”

The referees’ designator Stefano Braschi is to quell growing unease with the standard of refereeing by accepting that the decision had been incorrect but that is was carried out in “good faith” and there was no agenda on the part of his officials.

In fact, they had been pretty inept all weekend. They failed to flag Ignazio Abate offside for his cross to set up Stephan El Shaarawy for AC Milan’s winner over Genoa and ruled Stefano Mauri offside when he was clearly not, thus chalking off a Lazio equalizer at Fiorentina.

Of course, the champions shrugged off the matter as another overblown storm in a espresso cup, with the club’s sporting director Beppe Marotta claiming with no hint of irony that although Catania’s goal should have stood, Juve would have won anyway such was their dominance throughout the game.

Rolling on to 48 Serie A games undefeated, it is no wonder that the Old Lady are so sure in their convictions and now it is up to officials to follow that lead and have courage in their own decisions.

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