Marco Verratti found himself on the receiving end of a rare yellow card after a referee enforced one of football’s most unusual rules.
This week, IFAB, the lawmakers of football, sparked controversy by announcing trials for sin-binning players and issuing blue cards.
Although sin-bins are already in use at grassroots levels for dissent, their potential expansion to include cynical fouls has stirred debate. Under this rule, players could face a 10-minute stint in the technical area after receiving a blue card.
The news prompted reflection on some of the more peculiar decisions made by referees in top-tier football. One such incident involved then-Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Verratti during a 2-0 victory over Nantes in 2017.
In a moment of audacity, Verratti, in acres of space, chose to dramatically kneel and head the ball back to his goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp, after receiving a pass. Referee Johan Hamel promptly halted play, booked Verratti, and awarded Nantes an indirect free-kick.
The decision left PSG bewildered, but according to the letter of the law, Verratti’s “deliberate trick” had breached the rules.
IFAB’s stance on the matter is clear: “No trickery may be used to get around the terms of the amendment to Law 12.” The rules specify that while a player can pass the ball to their goalkeeper using various body parts, any deliberate trickery to circumvent the law warrants a caution for ungentlemanly conduct.
This rule wasn’t exclusive to Verratti; Inter’s Ivan Perišić also fell afoul of it during a match against Roma, executing two kick-ups before heading the ball back to his goalkeeper, Samir Handanovic.