Corinthians deserve credit for their performance in the State Championship final, but the way in which the referee overturned a penalty awarded to Palmeiras was one of the strangest things I’ve seen in football.
Corinthians fans would rather focus on the football, but the bizarre handling of a penalty decision is the biggest story from Sunday’s state championship final between Palmeiras and Corinthians. The match was stopped for eight minutes as players argued with the ref and each other while the ref struggled to make up his mind on whether or not he should award a penalty to Palmeiras. The referee initially gave a penalty and then overturned his decision six minutes later. In case you don’t have a full eight minutes to watch a video of the incident below, I’ve summarised it in words.
- 0 mins: Referee awards a penalty in favour of Palmeiras
- 0 mins: Corinthians players react furiously to the decision and hound the ref
- 0 mins: Ref walks around the field trying to get away from Corinthians players
- 1 mins: Ref books Balbuena for his reaction
- 1 mins: Players (including Balbuena) keep hounding ref
- 1 mins: Ref looks completely lost and doesn’t know what to do
- 1 mins: Ref listens to something in his earpiece
- 1 mins: Ref walks around the field with players from both teams following him
- 1 mins: Corinthians coach Carille speaks to suited men on side of pitch
- 2 mins: Fourth official walks around pitch telling Corinthians players to calm down
- 2 mins: Fifth official walks along touchline and tells Corinthians players to calm down
- 2 mins: Ref looks towards centre of pitch, suggesting he might want some information from fourth official
- 2 mins: Surrounded by players, ref and fourth official try and find a quiet place to talk
- 3 mins: Ref and fourth official talk, Palmeiras players overhear and get angry
- 3 mins: Palmeiras players argue with officials on the pitch
- 3 mins: Ref runs around the field trying to get away from Palmeiras players
- 4 mins: Fourth official argues with Palmeiras substitutes and management
- 4 mins: Ref holding ball but still doesn’t seem certain what final decision is
- 5 mins: Ref still lost
- 5 mins: Players from both sides angrily surround ref
- 5 mins: Ref talking to Dudu and Ralf (players involved in initial penalty)
- 6 mins: Seems like ref will give a drop ball
- 6 mins: Palmeiras players go furious as ref awards corner, not penalty
- 6 mins: Pushing breaks out between Palmeiras players and Corinthians subs
- 6 mins: Police shield Corinthians subs from angry Palmeiras players
- 7 mins: Ref points to corner flag, Palmeiras players continue to go crazy
- 8 mins: Lucas Lima takes corner
Now, justice was done in the sense that Ralf actually got the ball, so it was ultimately the correct decision not to give a penalty (it was still a close call though because he also got the player). But the way in which this was handled will not only have messed with Palmeiras’ player’s heads psychologically, which could have influenced their performance for the rest of the game and indeed during the penalty shootout. But this incident sends out other, more sinister, messages: that referees decisions can be overturned by aggressive player protests; the rules and procedures were not followed; someone other than the match officials influenced the decision.
Palmeiras went on to lose the match, 1 – 0, and lose the tie, on penalties. Had this penalty stood (mid way through the second half), the chances are that Palmeiras would have drawn the match, won the tie and taken the trophy. Understandably, Palmeiras club officials have reacted furiously. They have said that they will field a reserve team in next year’s competition and told their players not to go to this year’s award ceremony (where eight of their players were nominated in the team of the competition). They have even asked supporters of the club that work for the Sao Paulo Football Federation to resign in protest. Since the incident happened on Sunday the fallout has continued all week and Palmeiras have presented evidence to a sporting tribunal saying that external factors influenced the referee’s decision and have asked for the result to be annulled.
Now, the official line from the Sao Paulo Football Federation is that the fourth official advised the ref to overturn the decision because he had a better view of the situation than the ref. This is complete nonsense. It was almost impossible for him to have a better view of the incident since it happened in the box and the fourth official was on the halfway line. The fourth official was also on the side of the field behind the players meaning that his view of incident. Of course, using a VAR could have avoided all of this, but the fact was that there was no VAR in this game and the officials were not allowed to use video replays to make their decisions. It seems that this may have happened or that some official other than the match officials told one of the match officials that they should not give a penalty.
Amid all of these controversy, it should be pointed out that Corinthians were very good and Palmeiras were quite poor. Considering that Palmeiras have the best players (in my opinion and that of most other pundits), they didn’t create very many clear cut chances. All that Corinthians needed was a goal (scored in the first minute) and their excellent defence shut out Palmeiras for the rest of the game. The result is painful for Palmeiras, who had been the best team throughout the competition, only to fall at the final hurdle against their main rival. After selling Jo, Corinthians have been without a top quality striker so to get to the final and overturn their first leg deficit really is quite impressive. Fair play to them for that. Terrible play from the ref.
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