Understanding the Green Card in football

Footballing history was made in the Italian Serie B this month after a player was awarded the first ever green card for good sportsmanship in the match between Virtus Entella and Vincenza. ESPN FC reports that Vicenza striker Cristian Galano was the recipient after he admitted that a corner kick in his favour should instead have been a goal kick. The referee recorded the incident and the card was shown to the player after the final whistle.

Africa News reveals that the new card was brought in at the beginning of the season and the player shown the most green cards at the end will be rewarded. While the green card is principally symbolic, Serie B president Andrea Abodi stated that the card was an attempt to change football’s image. He said, “We think that football needs positive messages. This sport is too often embroiled in controversy that drives people away from the stadiums.” This is particularly true of the Italian second division that had been at the centre of a match fixing scandal this season.

Sporting behaviour has long been something of a contentious issue in football with many famous examples over its long history. The World Cup, football’s biggest stage, has produced several infamous moments that has brought the sport into disrepute. The best-known example of cheating is Diego’s Maradona’s deliberate hand ball goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter final. Maradona eventually admitted that he had deliberately used his hand to score and the goal has become part of football legend, referred to as the Hand of God. Global sports news blog The Big Lead revealed that he had no regrets over the goal even arguing that it is good for the sport when “one does something naughty.” In true Maradona fashion after scoring arguably the worst goal of any World Cup, he went on to score the best ever goal the tournament has ever seen, and led Argentina to win the trophy that year.


Another memorable incident of unsporting behaviour was Rivaldo’s dive against Turkey in the 2002 World Cup. Leading football betting and news site Betfair in their series ‘This Week in Football History’ reported how Rivaldo got a man sent off and ruined his reputation as one of the game’s greats. In the dying minutes of Brazil’s first round match against Turkey, opposition player Hakan Unsal kicked the ball to Rivaldo in order to get him to take a corner quicker, the ball hit Rivaldo’s thigh and Rivaldo went down clutching his face. After Unsal was sent off, Rivaldo got up and carried on playing. What made the incident so unsporting was that, unlike the Maradona goal, there was no benefit to the action other than to deliberately get a player sent off in the last minute of a game.

While there is no news that the green card will be used in other competitions it shows that football is at least trying to move away from the bad reputation it has acquired.

below is an interesting video showing the ‘green card’

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