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.