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Personal Injury and Legal Ramifications from a Soccer Game: An Analysis of 4 Superclasicos (Part Two)

Previously, a Los Angeles personal injury attorney gave some background into the superclasico soccer games between Real Madrid and Barcelona. In part two, we will give a more in depth legal analysis of the series of games. In the second game, the final of the Copa Del Rey, Real Madrid came into the game with the same intent of destroying Barcelona’s play with dangerous fouls and dirty play. At one point, Alvaro Arbeloa, a defender for Real Madrid, elbowed and then intentionally stepped on the leg of Barcelona striker David Villa. The referee did not see the assault, so Arbeloa got away with it. While normal fouling is part of the game, intentionally stepping on a down player’s legs, with cleats, is not and should not be considered part of the game. This is more comparable to criminal assault, as it is an intentional act with the sole intention of causing bodily harm.

In order for sports competition to be exciting, it is usually best to keep the legal world out of what happens on the field of play. However, certain instances, that should not be part of the game, deserve to be punished legally. For instance, in hockey, when a player intentionally swings his stick at another player’s head from behind, the injured player should not be assuming the risk of such an assault. In football, it can be expected that there are times when a player’s face mask will get pulled, but eye gouging a down player is not “part of the game.” Here, a stomp on a down player’s leg is not part of the game and could cause serious injury. Should this be any different than if this happened outside the stadium, in a public area, where the attacker would be subject to criminal or civil liability for the personal injury he has caused?

In the third game between the teams, this time in the UEFA Champions League, a Real Madrid player, Marcelo, had a similar intentional stomp on the leg of a Barcelona player, Pedro Rodriguez. While David Villa was able to recover and keep playing after he was stomped on, Pedro suffered a knee injury and had to leave the game. The culprit, Marcelo, was not punished as again the referee did not see the attack.

There are numerous reasons that such assaults exist, including the fact that players know that if committed away from the referee’s eyes, they will usually avoid any form of punishment. If suspensions, fines, or criminal or civil charges could be brought after the game, such attacks certainly would occur less frequently, if at all.

These were not the only such incidences throughout the four games. Emmanuel Adebayor, a Real Madrid striker, was especially violent when he was brought into the 3rd and 4th games off the bench. His fouls included reckless challenges with his cleets as well as intentionally hitting other players with his hands. These fouls, which often deserved straight red cards, were only punished minimally and, because he was substituted into the games with a clear intent to “play” this way, reflects that it was probably upon the instruction of the Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho.

If a coach orders his player to go onto the field and cause harm to players of another team, should the coach possibly be subject to legal sanctions or personal injury liability? Fortunately, none of the players were seriously injured by Adebayor’s attacks, but Sergio Busquets was hit in the face, Gerard Pique was kicked on his hand (requiring medical care), and other players were lucky to avoid serious injury as a soccer tackle with the cleats can very easily cause a broken leg or other serious injuries.

One good example of proactive refereeing occurred in the third game, when Real Madrid’s Pepe was shown a direct red card, and kicked out of the game and suspended for the next game, after a particularly reckless challenge on Barcelona’s Dani Alves. Pepe went into the challenge with his cleats (studs) showing and if Dani Alves did not pull out of the challenge, his leg could have easily been broken. Alves stated after the game that he was lucky he was wearing his shin guards, as a potentially catastrophic injury was avoided.

Defensive tactics to stop a more skilled team are usually not fun to watch, but they are part of the game. Putting out a team with the intent to stop another team by causing bodily harm is a completely different thing. In basketball, the “Hack a Shaq” technique was used to send Los Angeles Lakers Center, Shaquille O’Neal, to the free throw line, where he shoots a bad percentage. However, these fouls were usually minor and were mere technicalities, not designed to injure O’Neal. The types of fouling committed by Real Madrid, which seemed to be a direct instruction from Mourinho, crossed the line between what is fair as part of the game and what might need to be examined as far as possible legal consequences. Had a player had his leg broken by a Madrid “foul,” we would certainly be having that unfortunate discussion. Fortunately, we are not, but because it is ignored legally, the next victim of similar challenges may not be so lucky.

Our California personal injury attorneys have been working on Los Angeles personal injury cases for over 30 years. If you, a friend, or a family member is injured in an accident in California, call our office right away for a free consultation with a California personal injury lawyer.

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