When the eminent philosopher of football, Friedrich Nietzsche, was asked for his opinion on how referees make decisions in high profile European games, he replied that ‘All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth’.
Alberto Mallenco would appear to be the type of referee who likes to follow the rules of the game exactly to the letter. For him, it would appear to be about truth, not power. Of course, Nietzsche was also keen to remind us that appearances can be deceptive.
However, this is what FIFA’s Law 12 on Fouls and Misconduct states:
So although it frustrated, angered and confused a number of people at the time, it would seem that Mallenco was correct not to award a penalty when Juventus defenders held and wrestled with Celtic players during last week’s Champions League game.
But if that is the case, then perhaps Celtic should hope for a similarly minded, letter of the law type referee for the return leg in Turin. Wrestling like Juventus might turn out to be a winning strategy, if all else fails.
The relevant section of Law 12 states:
“The following conditions must be met for an offence to be considered a foul:
It must be committed by a player.
It must occur on the field of play.
It must occur while the ball is in play.
Remove any of these conditions and the offence is not and cannot be a foul.”
With that in mind, what would stop Celtic players flooding into the Juventus box at corner kicks and holding all of their defenders back, or pinning the keeper to the front post, whilst the ball is still dead, allowing the Celtic strikers to casually stroll into unmarked positions to wait on the corner being taken?
Of course, this could end up as a 21 man scrum (assuming the corner kick taker is left unshackled). But surely if the tactics used by Juventus were judged to be within the rules, then so too would this absurd scenario? Perhaps the same referee should be appointed across both legs, just to ensure consistency across the tie and to give teams the opportunity to take advantage of his particular interpretation of the rules from the first leg? Surely there would be nothing he could do about it?
When Ludwig Wittgenstein was working on the philosophy of mathematics he noted that ‘rules leave loop-holes open and the practice must speak for itself’; and when his good pal Friedrich Nietzsche asked him for advice on some of the vexing problems in the philosophy of football, he declared that ‘rules leave hoops hopes open and the passion must speak for itself’.
So I conclude, this is how Celtic might win in Turin, from a philosophical point of view.