So, Gennaro Gattuso has just been given a four-match ban for 'incidents' during AC Milan's 1-0 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. Those incidents included such lovely acts as: Pushing Peter Crouch in the face repeatedly; shoving Joe Jordan in the throat; and headbutting Jordan after the match was over. Joe Jordan, incidentally, is a coach, and is 59 years old. Claims of provocation seem plausible, but assaulting an old man is a pretty big lapse in judgment. UEFA handed Gattuso a four-match ban as a result of his actions.
Which brings us to Chelsea. If you recall, we've had our share of disciplinary problems in the Champions League as well, most notably when Didier Drogba swore at a television camera during the 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals in 2009 regarding the performance of Norweigian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo. What was Drogba's punishment? A six-game ban, with two of those suspended.
Swearing, in UEFA's world, is apparently a worse offence than attacking someone. What did they have to say after Drogba was charged?
We have to set certain standards. We do have a 'Respect' campaign and the Uefa president (Michel Platini) is instrumental behind that.
The players are key to that, in setting a good example both on and off the pitch. The club obviously has a responsibility for the way their players behave as well.
All in all, that's the reasoning for the decision.
-Rob Faulkner, UEFA head of communications. Source: BBC.
And what's going on with Gennaro Gattuso? According to the UEFA website:
AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso has been suspended for four UEFA club competition matches by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body, following incidents that took place at last Tuesday's UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg against Tottenham Hotspur FC in Italy.
The Control and Disciplinary body ruled that Gattuso had assaulted the Tottenham Hotspur assistant coach Joe Jordan after the match.
There you have it. According to UEFA, assault is less of an offence than a lack of respect for the referee. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about players giving the referees respect (something that most top-level teams, including Chelsea, make a mockery of). Drogba deserved a tough sentence for going off on Overbo on live TV. But there is absolutely no way in the world Gattuso should be given less of a ban for headbutting a 59 year-old man than Drogba should for saying a swearword on television.
It's been two years since the Drogba incident, so it's hardly like we're comparing apples to oranges here. The fact that Gattuso hasn't received a significantly longer ban is, to use the words of a certain Ivorian, a f***ing disgrace. That, or UEFA should admit that they were far too hard on Chelsea back then.