During Panathinaikos' 1-1 draw with Asteras Tripolis in the Greek Super League, referee Katsidonis gave a red card to Argentine midfielder Adrián Jesús Bastía for a rather strange offense.
Panathinaikos took an early lead in its own OAKA Spiros Louis stadium, but the guests fought back as a deflected corner fell to Bastía, who ruffled the back of the net with a powerful, turning volley that somehow made its way through a cluster of players.
Enraged by Panathinaikos’ poor performance, the home-fans started to run riot. One fan even managed to evade a police cordon and invaded the pitch. The referee delayed play so the riot police could apprehend the rogue supporter.
At this point, Bastía, the man who had earlier equalised, decided to be a good citizen and help the policemen, giving chase. When the supporter sprinted past him, the Argentine goal-scorer tripped the Greek fan, who was then easily arrested.
Much to his own and his teammates’ amazement, the Argentine was sent off by referee Katsidonis for “violent conduct.” The Argentine will no doubt take solace in the fact that minnows Asteras held title-candidate Panathinaikos to a draw in their own stadium thanks to his goal.
The question remains if this sending off was indeed an offense worthy of a red card.
To be fair, I do feel sorry for Bastía. A fan invades the pitch and delays your match, so you decide to help out by stopping this fan so the match can continue. Instead of a pat on the back and some compliments, you get a red card.
It seems awfully harsh to send a player off for such an action. If it had been aimed at another player on the pitch, okay, but this is just silly. I do feel that players should be allowed to help remove fans off the pitch, by all means necessary.
Basically, you're now sending off a player from the away team because the home side's fans are running riot and entering the pitch. Seems a bit odd, doesn't it?
Strictly following the rules, the ref was right. I quote rule 12.34 of the FIFA manual for referees:
"It is violent conduct when a player (or substitute) is guilty of aggression towards an opponent (when they are not contesting for the ball) or towards any other person (a teammate, the referee, an assistant referee, a spectator, etc.). The ball can be in or out of play. The aggression can occur either on or off the field of play."
When a fan invades the pitch, isn't that an act of aggression? He has no part to play in the match, so why enter the pitch? Why can't a player help the security people by tripping such a player, so the match can continue? It all seems terribly wrong to me.