Chelsea miss the boat with Champions League ban appeal

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It has become something of an iconic moment in football this week. Branislav Ivanovic, fresh off the field having played his part in Chelsea’s shock triumph over Barcelona which secured them a place in the Champions League final, watched on haplessly as his bubble burst before his very eyes.

‘Branislav, you know that (yellow card) means you are out of the final now,” queried Sky Sport’s Geoff Shreeves, persuing a line of interrogation that would earn him at least a week’s worth of infamy.

Ivanovic responded in a manner akin to a seal being confronted by a hungry Inuit wielding a club.

“I don’t know...” he uttered, before somewhat optimistically glancing towards fellow interviewee Ashley Cole for linguistic assistance.

Shreeves pressed on. “It means you don’t play in the final.” The blood continued to drain from his victim’s face.

“It’s unfortunate,” was all Ivanovic could muster, alongside a half –smile as he attempted to continue the interview without succumbing to the flood of tears building up in his eyes.

24 hours later and it was a similar story in the second semi-final between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, although without Geoff ‘the hatchet’ Shreeves on hand to gleefully point out the next raft of players to miss the biggest game of their careers.

Three Bayern Munich players - Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber - will join Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and Ramires in sitting in a suit at the Allianz Arena with the best seat in the house for the Champions League final.

John Terry, who landed the knee seen around the world and felt in the small of Alex Sanchez’s back, received a red card for his actions is out of the final regardless of what happens between now and May.

Outrage at both Shreeves and the concept of punishment for accumulative misdeeds spread like wildfire in the aftermath. Twitter lit up with rage at Shreeves' cold-hearted line of questioning while John Obi-Mikel whimpered for his fallen comrades.

“The yellow cards should be cancelled going into a final and Uefa should look into that, the baby-faced 25-year-old said after the game.

"When you get to the final everyone wants to see the best players and it's a shame that JT, Ivanovic, Meireles and Ramires won't play.”

Of course it seems a harsh punishment for a relatively innocuous crime. Three yellow cards in then games and any player could miss the biggest game he will ever play in his career for a club side.

FIFPro, the worldwide representative of has pleaded to UEFA for clemency, although they most they can hope for is a bag of oranges.

“FIFPro pleads for acquittal,” read a statement that took a leaf from the Pele book of third-person public-speaking. “FIFA ruled that, starting with the World Cup 2010, yellow cards awarded to players would be waived after the quarter finals.

'This means that a card awarded in the semi-final would no longer mean that the player could miss the match of his life, as, for example, happened to Michael Ballack in the 2002 World Cup.

FIFA’s allowing of players booked after the quarter-final stage two years ago gives FIFPro, Chelsea and Bayern some leverage, although they are missing the point somewhat - the ship has already set sail.

FIFA changed its rules well before the World Cup in South Africa in order to avoid a repeat of Paul Gascoigne’s tears; while the please for lienencey from both Bayern and Chelsea have come after the event in a childish attempt to protect themselves.

Were it not for the fact their players will miss out, thus hampering their chances in the final, it is incredibly unlikely that either Chelsea or Bayern would even raised an eyebrow at the rule.

Their issue isn’t with the fact that the three-bookings rule, which does appear unnecessarily harsh, exists, but that it has impacted them to leave them largely inconvenienced, seriously undermining their calls for clemency.

The rule was clear up to the point that the team-sheet that did the rounds at the Nou Camp and at the Bernabeu over the past two days came with a handy guide; stars next to the player’s names meant that one more booking would mean that player will miss the next game.

Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano both had little stars next to their name before the game and lo-and-behold they didn’t pick up bookings that would rule them out of the final had they qualified. Then again they had very little to do for much of the game as Barcelona’s defensive pairing.

There is an element of sympathy for the Chelsea cause in particualr – any team forced to defend with ten men against a side enjoying over 80% possession in a game are likely to pick up a booking or two but that doesn’t hide the fact that the ruling is there, clear for all to see.

Perhaps the banned Chelsea three, along with Geoff Shreeves, should look at their own thought process rather than look elsewhere for excuses.

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Branislav Ivanovic
John Terry
UEFA Champions League

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