Rules are rules, but is there really no room for humor in football these days? Not even amid the festivities of a Boxing Day fixture? Not even for Dimitar, striker-in-a-smoking-jacket, Berbatov?
"Keep calm and pass me the ball," it read. In seven words, Berbatov's footballing ethos writ large to the world. A smile was brought to us all and our love for the enigma of Berba made stronger.
But referee Phil Dowd wasn't amused. Out came a yellow card and Berbatov's knowing pun punished as if he had hijacked football to make a political point or taken a stance of solidarity behind a teammate accused of racism (imagine that).
Did Dowd have a choice? Here is FIFA rule 118, as referenced by a 2011 article in the Guardian:
Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal.
Common sense. That's all it would have taken for Dowd to keep his card in his pocket and for footballers to have been sent exactly the right kind of message at this time of year.
Football is entertainment. The more personality in it, the better.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!