Nigel De Jong Dropped from Dutch Squad for Winning a Tackle
Manchester City's midfield general Nigel de Jong has been dropped from the Dutch squad for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Moldova and Sweden.
National team coach Bert van Marwijk has decided to dismiss De Jong after his tackle broke Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa's leg during City's 2-1 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Before I start my defence of de Jong, let me just say that I really feel for Ben Arfa. He is a very talented footballer who would have been a hit in the Premiership this season.
I hate to see any player get injured, from people like Ben Arfa all the way down to the people we play with on a Sunday morning at parks the world over.
On this occasion though, all the bad press de Jong is receiving is wrong.
He clearly won the ball in the challenge, his studs were not showing, and it was his momentum along with the body position of Ben Arfa that caused the horrific injury.
Even to the extent that a well-placed referee, in Martin Atkinson—considered one of the best in Europe—waved play on and deemed the challenge to be fair.
Don't get me wrong. De Jong is no angel. The tackle on Xabi Alonso was one of the worst that I have ever seen.
But to be condemned like this is wrong.
Obviously van Marwijk has forgotten about the aforementioned tackle in the World Cup final—dropping de Jong for tackling with "excessive force."
Because of the way de Jong plays, this story was always going to be blown out of all proportion.
In his homeland they have gone even further, with a pundit branding the midfielder "a criminal."
This is ridiculous.
I wonder if this would have happened if, say, Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard had injured Ben Arfa during a game.
Somehow I think not.
A tough tackling midfielder has been part of football for the last 40 years.
The reaction is as if this has never happened before.
English football has been about pace and power for the last 10 seasons. Every team has a player who goes in wholeheartedly to every tackle.
Last season Arsenal youngster Aaron Ramsey was injured by Stoke's Ryan Shawcross, who mistimed his tackle.
He received the same treatment as de Jong. There's a difference, though: De Jong won the ball.
A strong tackling midfielder is as much a part of football as a flying winger or a free-scoring forward. It is part of the game and always will be.
If you don't like tackling, start watching basketball.
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