Ok, what kind of crazy ass-backwards world are we living in right now? A controversial second yellow card is shown, the coach for once actually comes out and says his player deserved it, and the director of the league's competition department then says that no he didn't. That's the surreal situation Tony Tchani and Toronto FC now find themselves in after Tchani's sending off for a second yellow for excessive celebrating in the game against Columbus.
Aron Winter decried Tchani's celebration as "stupid and "not clever" in his post game press conference, saying "you know when you jump from the pitch and in the crowd that you're going to get a second yellow." Refreshingly he refused the temptation to criticise the referee David Gantar for giving the yellow card, preferring instead to leave the responsibility with Tchani. I agree with Winter, it was really stupid of Tchani to put himself at the mercy of the ref, especially when he'd been given a verbal warning not even 10 minutes beforehand about too many fouls, and then had just earned himself a first yellow for running to get involved with the melee in front of the Columbus bench. Surely at that point you might think to yourself "the ref's got it in for me right now, I'd best keep my head down, at least until half time". Harsh or not, to even put that decision into the ref's hands really is not clever.
Many others had jumped to Tchani's defence, saying the ref should use his discretion, and pointing to other incidents such as Alan Gordon's celebration after scoring against Chivas where he did pretty much the exact same thing as Tchani but didn't receive a yellow card. Today they were joined by Paul Tamberino, director of the league's competition department as reported in this Canadian Press article.
I actually feel bad for Gantar. He didn't have a great game by any means, but on this incident, in only his third MLS game, he followed the rules and now the league is coming down on him telling him he got it wrong. Where are referees supposed to draw the line? Tchani left the pitch and jumped on a railing to be able to hug some of the fans, how far would he have had to go for it to be considered worthy of a yellow card? That's something that supporters, players and coaches would probably never agree on, and maybe there should be a way for it to be flexible, but surely the league should be standing behind the refs they use when they're calling things by Fifa's, and thus the leagues book.
As with many other refereeing controversies, it's the inconsistencies of when an offence is or isn't worth a red card that cause a lot of problems for players, coaches and supporters alike. Many people have justifiably pointed out other recent incidents and questioned how any player is supposed to know what is allowable. While the human element in refereeing is a good thing, the only way to get any kind of consistency from one game and one referee to the next is to be following the rulebook. Instead Tamberino, as a representative of the league has basically just told the refs to make it up as they go along. That'll help.