Ballboys’ tricks puzzle Spanish league

Footballers are renowned for stretching the rules to breaking
point to gain an advantage, and now it seems the ball boys are
getting in on the act.

Zaragoza’s 1-0 win over Almeria on Monday was marred by the
latest example of what seems to be a growing trend in the Spanish
league that has seen extra balls being thrown onto the field in
order to stop play.

On two occasions, extra balls bounced onto the pitch with the
hosts clinging to a 1-0 lead in the game’s final minutes.

This was the second game in a row at La Romareda stadium that
has been disrupted in this manner. Two weeks ago – amid a flurry of
balls tossed onto the pitch – a ball flew out of the Zaragoza
dugout as the financially troubled and relegation-battling club
held on for a 2-1 victory over Getafe.

The same time-wasting tactics were employed during Sevilla’s 3-2
win over Villarreal on Sunday and Real Madrid’s visit to Osasuna in
January.

A video replay clearly shows a ballboy throwing another ball
onto the pitch at Sanchez Pizjuan stadium as Villarreal pushed
upfield late in the contest, and another ball was launched onto the
field from the tunnel above Villarreal’s goal.

Zaragoza and Osasuna were fined a paltry ?602 ($877) in both
earlier cases.

”Futbol is played with one ball…some people should learn
before coming to stadiums and ruining a nice, exciting game,”
Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi wrote on Twitter after the defeat
by Sevilla.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco made mention of the extra balls
at Sevilla in his match report, which means the Spanish football
federation’s disciplinary committee will have to study it. But it’s
unlikely to raise the penalty.

”We should look at altering the regulations,” federation
spokesman Jorge Carretero told The Associated Press on Monday.
”The rules need to generate fines that are relative to the
penalty.

”The problem with the current regulations is that they say a
higher sanction can only be applied if the penalty is of a violent
nature.”

Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez even nudged over a ballboy
after he hesitated in handing the ball over to the Spanish ‘keeper,
who decided to fetch it from behind the advertising boarding
himself.

”It’s something you shouldn’t expect to see at the stadium. In
those moments when you’re losing and they do these types of things
you feel ready to do act out stupidly but you have to control
yourself,” Lopez said afterward.

”What can you do? It’s shameful. It’s a question of
sportsmanship.”

Levante goalkeeper Gustavo Munua also experienced similar
problems at Atletico Madrid on Sunday as ballboys wasted time and
often let the balls land short when Munua asked for them. Atletico
won 4-1.

In January, Madrid lost 1-0 at the Reyno de Navarro Stadium to
see its league hopes begin to slip away. Balls were sent onto the
field as Madrid attacked, forcing play to stop.

”If it doesn’t break the law according to statutes, then the
committee can’t really do much,” Carretero added.