21.10.2020, 17:43

Don’t tar Sergio with Paolo’s brush

Don’t tar Sergio with Paolo’s brush

DON’T PUSH ME: Paolo Di Canio shoves referee Paul Alcock during a match in 1998. Photo Match of the Day.


Paul Kennedy

Enough has been written about video assistant referees this week. Plenty has been said about Liverpool’s last-minute disallowed goal against Everton last week and as far as Virgil van Dijk’s injury is concerned, I’ve heard already too much.

So instead this week, when the whole world is talking about VAR, I’m not going to. Instead, I will write about Paolo Di Canio.

This mercurial, yet magical footballer was, on one hand, an absolute genius, but on the other, and there’s no nice way of saying this, was mad as a box of frogs. Sorry Kermit, no offence intended.

Di Canio has a tattoo of Benito Mussolini on his back, and in his autobiography said the fascist dictator was “basically a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood”.

But let’s put Paolo’s political views to one side here and remember him for his genius on the football pitch. He really was that good.

After leaving Italy, he signed for Celtic for a season before moving south of the border to play for Sheffield United.

Some could argue that he wasn’t that well known at the time otherwise a much bigger club would have been after his signature.

However on September 261998 boy did that change.

In a match against Arsenal at home, a scuffle ensued on the pitch and Paolo got amongst it. His antics were too much for referee Paul Alcock, who showed the Italian the red card.

What did Paolo do? Accept his punishment and head for an early bath? Nope. Give the ref a mouthful of abuse before leaving the pitch? No chance.

Paolo, in typical Paolo fashion, gave Alcock a shove and the referee lost his balance and tumbled to the ground.

Now this wasn’t a Mike Tyson uppercut and it sure wasn’t a Connor McGregor roundhouse, but Paolo’s actions were bang out of order and he was rightly banned for 11 games and given a pretty hefty fine.

This week the Paolo push from 22 years ago was talked about again after Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero disputed a decision made by assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis, the only female official in the Premier League, and Aguero placed his hand on her shoulder.

I was staggered people were making such a big deal of this and having the nerve to compare it to the Di Canio shove all those years ago.

As far as I know, Sergio is not a right-wing fascist and I’m not aware that his body sports any tattoos of the former Argentine president and dictator Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo.

Thankfully, after closer inspection by the referee’s governing body in England, it was rightly decided that no further action would be taken. A rare victory for common sense.

The times I’ve seen Massey-Ellis run the line for matches I have found her decisions accurate and on point. I hope she is a trailblazer and more female officials work in the men’s game.

But if a player in the future does what Aguero did to her or any other female official in a match it should be looked on as absolutely no big deal.

Would so much fuss have been made if the Manchester City striker had put his arm on the shoulder of a male referee? Probably not. – VNS