Thursday, October 07, 2010

Nigel de Jong

Back in the 1980s there was a Spanish player from Atlético Bilbao known as "the Butcher from Bilbao" for his uncompromising and outright violent tackles that injured many players, among them Gary Lineker and Diego Maradona.
Harder refeereing has all but eliminated these kind of players, but once in a while some new "butchers" emerge, and one such is surely the Dutch Manchester City defender Nigel De Jong.
De Jong became world famous for a karate kick he gave Xabi Alonso in the world cup final. This kick became a symbol of a Dutch side that was no longer playing the beautiful style they were usually famous for.
But De Jong's sins are many: known as an uncompromising player, he managed to fracture the US player Stuart Holden's leg in a "friendly" match between the USA and Netherlands in March 2010, and this last weekend he repeated the feat of fracturing a player's leg when Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa was carried off the pitch in the Premier League match between their two sides.
This last tackle has fortunately been widely condemned, and the Dutch national coach, Bert van Marwijck, has decided to exclude de Jong from the Dutch national team that will play two Euro 2012 qualifiers this week.
This is surely a just punishment, but in fact, one of the worse things about de Jong has been the permissivenes of the referees; the situations with Alonso and Holden cost meager yellow cards, and for the Ben Arfa tackle, he wasn't even booked. Interestingly, the only one that has come out to defend De Jong is the Dutch captain Mark Van Bommel, another player whose tackles are not booked enough (and who should have had a couple of red cards in the World Cup).
Are the referees becoming more permissive, or are the Dutch now creating a new generation of defenders who can mask their violence? No matter what, they don't belong in football.


santino said...

I have to say that one of my all time favorite Barcelona Player, Ronald Koeman, had a similar style of play. He was too slow defending one on one situations, so he had to be very physical to make up for it. The interesting thing is that you wouldn't realize how dirty he was until you saw the play in slow motion. I know Van Bommel and de Jong are a little bit less subtle than that, but nonetheless they seem to follow the same tradition of making their tackling look a lot cleaner than it really is.

El Erik said...

I had not thought of Koeman, but it is true he was similar. However, I do think that he was more subtle than these guys, like you mention.
It is an interesting point, and it makes one wonder whether Dutch football in fact produces a particular type of defenders with such subtlelty (if there is such a thing as creating a particular type of defenders in different footballing cultures... That is an interesting debate)