Blowing one’s nose on the opponent, imitating a head butt towards the referee, vandalising a locker room, brutal kick in opponent’s stomach, removals of well-known coaches, plus loads of yellow and red cards – a list of incidents from Estonian football leagues, this year.
Spring, indeed, was slow in coming. On the local football fields, however, colours have abounded. Compared to former years, it is not only the shower of cards, but of situations demanding further analysis.
«In all leagues, there is more of aggressive behaviour and letting it loose on the field, much more than previous seasons,» said the Estonian Football Association press secretary Mihkel Uiboleht. «Should we also include the instances which merely made it to the disciplinary committee, the number of these is also up, significantly.»
Should we be tempted to think that maybe it’s the referees taking a harder line with certain issues, it still has to be admitted that we are having more of incidents where a player – or several of them – become exceedingly aggressive for no reason at all, it seems. The «best» example of the season being the Tallinn Puuma player Jaroslav Dmitrijev’s brutal behaviour at the end of April, when, in an altogether usual situation, he decided to kick the Rakvere Tarvas footballer Alari Aunapuu in the stomach.
This week-end, another Puuma player revealed his dark side: Nikolai Lõsanov, who, after earning a red card in the game they lost 1:2 to Tartu Tammeka II, proceeded by imitating a head butt towards the referee, spouting out obscenities and damaging the locker room door. At the same time, in a third league game, an Aratat player blew his nose at an opponent – hitting the mark at third try. An all time first in Estonian football.
Unusual stuff has also happened at the top level. With the leading trio finishing the first Championships round, all head coaches (Marko Lelov of Flora, Marko Kristal of Levadia; and Igor Prins of Nõmme Kalju) have been sent off the field-side and/or received bans for verbal abuse.
Three reds in six games
Talking about players, the largest card collection has this year been earned by Risto Kägo of Tallinn Kalev. In six games, he’s seen the yellow card nine times, with three reds to top it.
Amongst the teams, the freshly reformed Narva Trans stands out with an unusual amount of yellows. «A fine of €200 was imposed on Narva JK Trans, which, at this year’s Championships, for the third time had at least five yellow cards per game – according to rules, such cases go to the disciplinary committee. However, they are rare,» says the football association press release.
«With assistant coach of the Estonian national team, Janno Kivisild, we analysed the current situation… Is it an astrological issue or the long winter, but people are so aggressive this spring, coming to vent it on the field,» the Football Association’s head referee Uno Tutk struggled to find a reason for the abundant misbehaviour.
Sure: with the cards flashing, there has been criticism towards the referees. However, considering that they are, more than ever, invited to international tournaments and games, we may say the referee’s level is on the rise, rather. At trainings it is said that, according to the newest requirements, the game is to be kept in check first to ensure the payers’ safety, then to protect the game’s image and thirdly to protect the image of the referee’s job. In Estonia, also, there is a willingness to implement these rules to the best of our abilities. At times, this might cause some misunderstanding – but it surely is not the sole reason.
In addition to mystic X-factors (long winter) and the referees being more diligent, Championship League’s aggressiveness is attempted to be explained by the increased numbers of foreign players, as well as the more equal level in the league.
«There’s more foreign players and, by that, the game has become more aggressive – there’s more trying to prove themselves, establish their presence on the field,» thinks the Flora coach Marko Lelov – sent away from the field-side in the tense game with Tartu Tammeka. «The games have become more equal, there’s more tensions. Formerly, the top doers just took sure victories over the lower ranking ones. Now, nothing can be taken for granted.»