Wednesday, 14 September 2016

When will teams learn?

When will teams learn?

Last night I yet again watched a team implode by adopting unfathomable and deplorable tactics. The match in question was the AFC Cup quarter final between South China AA and Johur Dasul Ta’zim (JDT). The visitors came to Hong Kong with a deservedly high reputation. They won the competition in 2015 (beating SCAA 3-1 in Hong Kong at the same stage), won their R16 match this year 7-2 and are Champions of their domestic league. It promised to be a difficult night for the home team. And so it was at first. The Caroliners were forced to defend and JDT outplayed them, particularly in midfield. Their control, passing and pressing was superior and they were clearly the better team. They went ahead early in the first half with a somewhat fortuitous goal (I’m being generous to the SC defence) and it looked for all the world as if they would win the game comfortably. They should have done!

Then in the second half as South China started to show some signs of improvment, JDT seemed to settle for a 1-0 victory and inexplicably started some frustratingly negative tactics. Serious timewasting, feigning injury, falling over for no reason etc became the norm. In my book this behavior is at best unsportsmanlike and at worst cheating. It ruined the game and for JDT was totally counter-productive. I have no doubt that if they had continued to play football and focused on positive play instead of adopting petulant, pathetic histrionics they would have gone on to win.

In the end both poetic and footballing justice was done when South China equalized deep into the game; much to the delight of the crowd who had become increasingly annoyed with the visitors. When away teams adopt these negative tactics it merely winds the home crowd up which in turns spurs on the home team.

The shift in momentum caused by this behaviour must be apparent to the away team coaches and officials and yet it seems that they often instigate, encourage and condone the negative actions of their players. It’s as much their fault, if not more so because they dictate the tempo, rhythm, personnel and tactics.

South China should be out of this tie by now and yet they have hope in the second leg. OK it’s still an uphill battle but JDT, who should have been home and dry, will have some concerns.

When will teams learn to just play positive football instead of messing around?

I think the AFC needs to do something about it too because if things carry on like this fans will lose patience and simply stop watching. This in turn will reduce the impact of sponsors and broadcasters.

It’s not the first time I’ve highlighted these sorts of incidents and I make no apology for doing so again. Our ‘beautiful’ game was pretty ugly at times last night.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO, September 2016