Brazil's Repeated Haranguing of Referee Takes Gloss off Argentina Win

Christopher AtkinsContributor IOctober 11, 2014

Brazil's players react after Argentina's Lionel Messi, center, missed a chance to score  during a Brazil vs. Argentina friendly match at the Bird's Nest National Stadium in Beijing, China, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

On the surface of things, Brazil can be reasonably content with their national football team once more this Saturday evening, having beaten arch-rivals Argentina 2-0 in a smoggy Beijing.

However, the Selecao's success in the Far East was not as glorious as one might have imagined, coming just months after a major low in the form of their shocking World Cup exit to Germany.

This was a game greatly marred by the conduct of the Brazilian players towards Chinese official Fan Qi, regardless of the rights or wrongs of his performance in controlling the tie.

Footballers crowding a referee is unsightly at the best of times but to do so repeatedly and even lay hands on the man in charge is enough to rile most supporters—regardless of allegiance.

When, in the 40th minute, the Chinese referee gave a penalty for a tackle on Angel Di Maria from right-back Danilo, the Selecao were incredibly lucky it was only the perpetrator of the original foul on the receiving end of a yellow card.

Neymar, Elias and Luiz Gustavo, in particular, were seen by many to be using physical intimidation as part of their protest at the decision. To make matters worse, Elias would continue to harass the referee even after his goalkeeper had saved Lionel Messi's spot-kick.

It was a trend that was repeated on numerous occasions in the game, with the reaction far from justified despite some glaring errors from Fan.

Football is a passionate sport, and there are bound to be frustrations when one's reputation and, on occasions, livelihood are on the line. However, there need to be limits.

Crowding of referees is a frequent problem in the Chinese domestic game and the Brazilian players are perhaps fortunate to have encountered an official lenient in such circumstances. Many would have issued punishments for the conduct of the players.

They did not deserve such fortune. While observers will accept passion, when the protests verge on intimidation, they are clearly to the detriment of the sport and its core values.

In Beijing, Brazil were the winners of the game but may well be the long-term losers. They have created a negative image of the side in the minds of many, including in the Far East.

If anyone doubts that such incidents have long-lasting impact on reputations, Manchester United fans will attest that their side are still cited now by many for their crowding of referees a decade ago.

It is a great shame that on a day in which two of football's greatest sides clashed in what is essentially an international derby fixture, fans online have discussed player conduct as much as the game itself. The players involved should be ashamed.

Some will dismiss the complaints as people being sanctimonious, but the scenes seen were as a result of an official not taking a harsher line. Clamp down on such behaviour and it will not be repeated.

Brazilian football has often escaped criticism for the less savoury sides of the game, with the global audience preferring to see the beautiful play of past teams above the negatives.

On this occasion, though, the negatives have proved too much for many to ignore, and it is now for Dunga to take action to preserve the reputation of the national team. If he doesn't, FIFA doubtless will, should such scenes be repeated.