Shady delay tactics by ball boys in Spanish soccer

Soccer players are renowned for stretching rules to gain an
edge. Now the ball boys are getting in on the act.

Sevilla’s 3-2 victory over Villarreal on Sunday was marred by
what seems a growing trend in the Spanish league – extra balls
thrown onto the field to stop play.

A video replay clearly showed a ball boy tossing another ball
onto the field as Villarreal pushed upfield late in the game.
Another ball was heaved onto the field from the seats above
Villarreal’s goal.

There were similar ploys during Real Madrid’s visit to Osasuna
in January, and relegation-threatened Zaragoza employed the tactic
in a victory over Getafe last month.

The offending clubs were fined a paltry $877.

”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 soccer
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 aside a ball boy
after he hesitated in handing a new ball to the Spanish ‘keeper,
who decided to fetch the ball that had been in play from behind the
advertising boards.

”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 act out stupidly, but you have to control
yourself,” Lopez said.

”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. Ball boys 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, its
league hopes beginning to slip away. Balls were sent onto the field
as Madrid attacked, forcing play to stop.

Zaragoza, meanwhile, is desperately looking to avoid being
dropped. Its finances are already a mess and relegation would
compound a delicate situation.

Last month, Zaragoza was leading Getafe 2-1 with minutes to go
when an extra ball rolled onto the field as the opposition
attacked. The ball appeared to come from the Zaragoza dugout.

But for all the mounting evidence of shady tactics in clear
view, the rulebook still holds sway.

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