Posted by: mdegeorge | July 22, 2011

Awana have fun: Save the scolding and the controversy (VIDEO)

With the Womens World Cup final last Sunday, the American consciousness has turned – ever so temporarily – toward the sport of soccer as only a major international competition can force it to.

The increased attention has brought all manner of inane observations about the sports, ways to Americanize it to make it more palatable to people here in the States (without regard for the billions of people worldwide who have made it humanity’s most popular sport for the better part of a century). So while there’s little wrong with the sport, ideas like eliminating penalty kicks, altering substitution rules and doing away with the offsides rule were still theorized with little grounding in reality by the neophyte soccer audience.

While none of those alterations deserve serious consideration, there is one situation that cropped up this weekend that was met with unnecessary acrimony by the soccer community: The YouTube sensation that is Theyab Awana’s back-heel penalty.

The inflammatory penalty was taken in the 80th minute of a friendly between the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon, and the 21-year-old Emirati put his side up 6-2 in an eventual 7-2 triumph.

The goal was beautifully, if ostentatiously, taken by Awana, but instantly raised the ire of the UAE coaching staff. Manager Srecko Katanec immediately subbed him out of the match.

“This penalty, I didn’t like it,” said the Slovenian manager after the match. “We must respect players from other teams. In future, you don’t know what football will give you back. This is not respect. He’s a young guy and he knows he made a mistake immediately. I just want him to show respect, not just on the field but off it as well.”

Rumors all week indicated Awana would face a ban for an Asian World Cup qualifying match. But now it appears he’ll escape with just a fine.

I understand Katanec’s actions here to a degree, and the sportsmanship of the game, especially after a match has been decided, is vital. It’s heightened at the international level when each game carries ramifications well beyond the touchline.

But when you look at some of the shenanigans that get pulled in the run up to penalties, why is finishing with some panache a crime? Is it because he made the goalie look silly? If that’s the case, than Zinedine Zidane should’ve been fined for fooling Gianluigi Buffon, the consensus greatest goalie in the world at the time, in the final of the 2006 World Cup with his chip that left him no chance.

And take a look at Fred’s penalty in the Copa America quarterfinals (0:47 on this video). All that herky-jerky crap is terrible for the game. Awana, meanwhile, kept going forward at all times as per the rules governing penalty-taking. To my knowledge, there’s no rule against that.

If you want to scold a young guy for doing this at an inopportune time, go ahead. But don’t fine him for having some fun on the pitch.

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