Skip to content

Let’s face it: Zlatan Ibrahimovic shouldn’t have been red carded

Feb 12, 2013, 11:15 PM EDT

As I watched the replay of Tuesday’s Valencia-Paris Saint-Germain match (because I hit Celtic-Juve first), I was surprised to hear relatively little debate about Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card. The PSG star saw straight red and earned the corresponding suspension after this stoppage time challenge:

The two arguments on this:

Ibrahimovic went over the top of the ball, making this a reckless, unnecessary challenge. He made full contact in a way that could have hurt Andres Guardado, therefore making it dangerous. While that may not be a red card every time, referee Paolo Tagliabento was within his rights to show Ibra red.

If that argument sounds dispassionate, it’s because I’m not buying it. This is just Ibrahimovic stepping on somebody’s foot, and while it’s conceivable the game could evolve to the point where this type of cynical foul would be an automatic red, dismissing Ibrahimovic is disproportionate. We just don’t see red cards for that type of foul. There’s no reason for Ibrahimovic, in the moments leading into that action, to believe he’d see red for what he’d decided to do. For Tagliabento to dismiss him for it is unjust.

Within the wiggle room referees get to interpret dangerous plays, Tagliabento’s entitled to his interpretation. It’s not outright wrong, and it’s probably not worth making a big deal about. Even if he is wrong, Tagliabento is entitled to occasional mistakes. Unless this is type of decision is a pattern from the Italian official, it’s better to just chalk it up to the game’s natural variance. Just bad “luck” for Ibra.

Though you could argue Ibrahimovic’s play was dangerous because it could have broken some toes, that interpretation of danger (potential harm) is problematic. There are a number of more common, more dangerous plays that are allowed to transpire through the course of a game – plays that would never draw a red card. Almost any time a player goes to ground, he’s exposing his opponent to more injury than Guardado was exposed to. Then a player is second in the air to contest a header, he’s risks concussions for both himself and this adversary. Even when a goalkeeper goes to punch a ball, he often puts other players at risk with the follow through or his jump.

In each of those situations, players commit to “dangerous” actions because they know they’re allowed to. Game in, game out they play by a set of standards enforced by the officiating community, standards to which they’ve adapted their game. They know what will and won’t bring red cards, and they act accordingly.

Going into today’s match, the game’s conventions allowed for what Ibrahimovic did. At least, they didn’t call for Ibrahimovic to be dismissed for that challenge. At some point before Tagliabento’s whistle, that changed. And now Ibrahimovic will miss the return leg.

Latest Posts
  1. Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho fail to shake hands, as Gunners boss finally prevails

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    The long-time spat between the managers of Arsenal and Chelsea rumbles on.

  2. Sunday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Liverpool wants Cheryshev, Pato to Sunderland

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    FC Internazionale v Real Madrid- International Champions Cup Getty Images

    Catch up on all the latest transfer rumors and gossip, right here.

  3. Three things we learned from Arsenal’s Community Shield win vs. Chelsea

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Wenger finally beats Mourinho, while the Blues have some issues up front.

  4. Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea: Oxlade-Chamberlain strike wins Gunners FA Community Shield

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptq2mtvlzdlkyzrjzwnhzdg3ywvhyzy2m2qznzzkmwu11 AP

    Arsenal takes claim to the Community Shield as Arsene Wenger has finally defeated Jose Mourinho.

  5. VIDEO: Brilliant finish from Oxlade-Chamberlain puts Arsenal ahead in Community Shield

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT

    Arsenal celebrate their opening goal vs. Chelsea. AP

    The Gunners took a 1-0 first half lead over Chelsea in the FA Community Shield thanks to a classy finish from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

  6. VIDEO: Watch the Wright-Phillips brothers combine for slick goal in Red Bulls’ win

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Bradley Wright-Phillips, Bill Hamid AP

    In the City of Brotherly Love, it was only fitting that the Wright-Phillips boys led New York to a victory.

  7. Roy Keane thinks Arsenal players too focused on “selfies and six-packs”

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:07 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Everton: Barclays Asia Trophy Getty Images

    There’s a legitimate chance that Roy Keane has never taken a picture with his cell phone.

  8. Report: Manchester United, PSG agree to $70 million fee for Angel di Maria

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:12 AM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s Di Maria experiment is all but over, and it’s going to cost them $20 million.

  9. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 0-3 Vancouver Whitecaps (video)

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Pa Modou Kah, Vancouver Whitecaps FC

    That’s 7 losses in 8 games for the Sounders. Meanwhile, the ‘Caps go top of the West.

  10. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Houston Dynamo (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City

    Another Royal Rumble between old rivals. While the rest of MLS went goal-crazy, these two did what they always do.

  11. MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 5-2 Columbus Crew SC (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

    The goals floweth over in MLS tonight. Cyle Larin scored his second straight brace for Orlando City.

  12. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 6-4 Real Salt Lake (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

    D.C. United and RSL combined for 10 goals at RFK Stadium Saturday night. Let the video do the talking.

  13. Premier League friendly roundup: Man City lose in Germany, Liverpool win in Finland

    Aug 1, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT

    Manchester City vs. VfB Stuttgart Manchester City vs. VfB Stuttgart

    The Premier League season is here…almost. The final week of preseason has begun.

  14. Wolfsburg, PSG knock off Bayern Munich, Lyon in German, French Super Cups (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 6:25 PM EDT

    VfL Wolfsburg, 2015 German Super Cup champions VfL Wolfsburg, 2015 German Super Cup champions

    The new seasons in Germany and France are underway following an afternoon full of Super Cup action.

  15. Ex-Mexico manager Miguel Herrera in hot water yet again, this time for political tweets

    Aug 1, 2015, 4:29 PM EDT

    Miguel Herrera, Mexico Miguel Herrera, Mexico

    It’s not been the greatest week of Miguel Herrera’s life. He’s in legal trouble yet again.

  16. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-3 Montreal Impact (video)

    Aug 1, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Laurent Ciman & Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact FC Laurent Ciman & Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact FC

    Another wild afternoon at Yankee Stadium ends in defeat for NYCFC. Pirlo made his first MLS start and Lampard made his MLS debut.

  17. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Tottenham Hotspur

    Aug 1, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    tottenham.crest

    Can Spurs crack the top four? Or will it be another season on the outside looking in at White Hart Lane?

  18. Can Arsene Wenger end his 13-match winless streak against Jose Mourinho?

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-ARSENAL Getty Images

    Wenger has never beaten Mourinho before, but he’ll have a chance to do so tomorrow in the Community Shield.

  19. Brendan Rodgers says $50 million for Christian Benteke was a bargain

    Aug 1, 2015, 12:56 PM EDT

    Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke Getty Images

    Rodgers better hope his “bargain” buy scores a lot of goals for Liverpool this season.