Saturday, reigning Belgian champions Standard Liege faced off versus their main rivals Anderlecht. The match itself ended in a 1-1 draw, but afterwards, all discussions were focussed on other things rather than the result on the pitch.
Young Standard prodigy Axel Witsel broke the leg of Polish Anderlecht defender Marcin Wasilewski with a horrible charge. The brutal charge was punished with an instant red card, as the unfortunate Polish defender was carried off the pitch.
The Anderlecht medical staff announced the Polish defender broke his leg and will not be back until at least the winter, but it seems more likely that the defender will be out for the rest of the season and maybe even forever, as the 29-year-old's leg was horribly broken.
The Belgian FA have not yet responded to the awful tackle, but it seems very likely Witsel will receive a severe punishment. The golden boy of Belgian football, coveted by the likes of Man Utd during the summer, was announced the best player in the league last season—but he faces a much more grim future now, as one of the team sponsors has announced their disgust at the tackle.
The Belgian telecom company BASE, Standard Liege's main sponsor, complained to the Standard board during the game and voiced its disgust at the horrible tackle. The company stated that, "this kind of behaviour is not in line with the moral values BASE represents."
The sponsor promised to support Standard financially to make up for any losses, provided they severely punished young Witsel to "show him that such fouls do not belong in football, regardless of prior history or backgrounds between players and clubs."
BASE also requested a meeting with the clubs directors to discuss future steps in case incidents like this are repeated in the future.
Witsel, meanwhile, claims to be innocent. He is, according to his own words, "aware he broke the leg of his opponent, but there was no foul play involved. It wasn't intentional. I don't enter the pitch to break legs, that is not my style."
"I went in hard to protect myself," Witsel continued. "We both went for the ball and unfortunately, I hit him. That is unfortunate. I apologised to him several times already. I am really sorry. I am not a bad person. I don't go out and deliberately try to injure people. We'll see what the consequences will be, but I realise I might face a long suspension from football."
For those of you who are not squeamish, have a look at the tackle.
That's the facts. Now for my personal opinion.
My initial reaction was to cover my mouth and shout "OH S**T". I then noticed Witsel is actually closing his eyes as he lunges in. Maybe he's fortunate then, as he won't have the image of the horrible foul imprinted on his eyelids. He'll have to live with the screams ringing in his ears and the knowledge he may have ended the career of Wasilewski.
After those initial instinctive reactions, which I imagine everyone who has ever played football can imagine, I snapped back to reality. To be completely fair, it didn't look like an actually deliberate challenge. This of course doesn't justify the outcome of the tackle, so I do agree with a long sentence and a hefty fine.
In that light, I was pleasantly surprised with the pro-active attitude of the sponsor, who immediately condemned this action, despite the lad involved being the Golden Boy of Belgian football.
I do hope his club does everything within their power to guide, counsel and protect the lad from himself and the media when he is suspended, as he is still a young player and even when he did make a horrible challenge there, this doesn't make him a criminal.
It should be interesting to see how this situation develops in the future. I just hope for poor Marcin Wasilewski he will be able to pick up his career once and if he fully recovers.
For his own and Witsel's sake, I hope he does.