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.