They have long been accused of gamesmanship and diving in hopes of drawing a penalty, but Italian footballers will soon be able to get a different kind of recognition from referees — a “green card” for good sportsmanship and other “acts of virtue” on the pitch.
Refs already carry a yellow and red card in their shirt pockets — yellow to warn and red to dismiss players for egregious violations of the rules.
According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Italy’s Serie B (second division) will add the green card to reward players who commit conspicuous acts of sportsmanship.
The idea was first adopted in Italian youth leagues but this is the first time the scheme will be used at a considerable level and it could spread to other professional leagues, the newspaper said.
There is no in-game reward for earning a green card, but the player’s name will be noted and a list of the “most correct” players will be compiled at the end of the season.
Green cards can be earned for such actions as sending a ball out of bounds to stop play when a player is injured; helping the referee make a correct call; and — curiously — admitting to having taken a dive in order to win a penalty kick.
The idea, according to Italian officials, is to “highlight those who help to make the game a game and not a battle by primal instincts.”
The green card will be introduced this Saturday, according to our friends over at Eurosport.it.
Some predict it will catch on like other recent innovations, including goal-line technology and spray-marking the line where defenders must stand on free kicks.
We're sorry, but this idea comes across as little more than a barmy novelty, a token gesture in an ocean full of sharks hungry for success.
Are you really telling me that a 'green card', with no tangible benefits, is going to be more effective in stamping out diving than, say, retroactively suspending anyone who is caught diving on replays even if they fool the match official on the day?
Credit where it's due to Serie B for giving it a go, however - there'll be more eyes on their league this weekend than there usually is.