Brad's verbal exchange with head referee Jorge Gonzalez in last Saturday's match against the Colorado Rapids was not caught on camera. However, when asked about the incident in a post-match interview with the press, Brad gave a play-by-play from his perspective:
"I see the same exact tackle - even worse in my eyes than my first-half tackle."
Brad was referring to Rapids Sam Cronin's sliding studs up tackle at midfield to retain Colorado's possession. Play was allowed to continue despite several Sounders throwing their arms up in protest. Seconds later, the continuation of play led to Kevin Doyle's goal--which MLS' Brian Dunseth reviewed and determined was offside.
Brad had more to say, "Along with that and what I thought was offside I went up to (referee Jorge Gonzalez) and asked how was that any different than my tackle in the first half. He said, ‘It’s different, it’s different.’ I said you need to talk to me. He said no. I gave him an expletive; he gave me a yellow card. I said it’s your duty to talk to me on the field. He said, ‘No it’s not.’ I gave him another expletive, and that was the double yellow."
The double yellow recount brings about some questions, most of all-- what is the role of a captain? And what obligation does a referee have to explain decisions to players on the pitch?
In short, the role of a captain is mostly symbolic, and bears more meaning within the context of the team. In fact, captains are only mentioned three times in FIFA's Laws of the Game.
- The referee tosses a coin and the team whose captain wins the toss decides whether to take the first or the second kick
- If at the end of the match and before the kicks start to be taken from the penalty mark, one team has a greater number of players than its opponents, it must reduce its numbers to equate with that of its opponents and the team captain must inform the referee of the name and number of each player excluded.
- The captain of a team has no special status or privileges under the Laws of the Game but he has a degree of responsibility for the behaviour of his team.
So there you have it in plain writing, no special status for captains. On page 25-26 of the same FIFA document, the specific powers and duties of the referee are laid out in a series of bullet points. Nowhere in that list does it mention anything about a referee's duty to communicate decisions to players, coaches, or team officials. If you are even a casual fan of the beautiful game, you have probably seen countless examples where referees use diplomacy to maintain control of a game by taking players aside and speaking to them like adults. Unfortunately "tact," "professionalism" and "good nature" aren't words you'll find that in the laws of the game. Referees very often communicate to players if an explanation is requested, but said explanation is by no means obligated to players. To be fair to PRO referee Jorge Gonzalez, Brad didn't exactly ask for an explanation so much as he demanded it with some colorful language thrown in for good measure. Brad was owed nothing from Mr. Gonzalez, but in exchange for his efforts was given two cards and an early dismissal.
On Saturday evening, Brad Evans (hopefully) learned a valuable lesson about his role as a captain, and perhaps another lesson about acceptable discourse with referees. Before Brad's next match against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 7, he will have plenty of time to study the rules of the game as well as find his spiritual center. Namaste, Sheriff, Namaste.