Giorgio Chiellini’s foul on Bukayo Saka has caused controversy and some English fans even started a petition to replay the Final, but it’s all part of the game and the Italy captain already paid a fair price for it, writes Stephen Kasiewicz.
Rescind the result. Stop the celebrations and hand back the trophy. Italy cheated and the European Championship final must be replayed. Football needs to come home. For one England supporter, if we can call them that, the Azzurri’s victory was all too much.
Clearly, the red mist descended in blinding waves when a petition was established demanding the match be played again on the grounds of bias and unsavoury, illegal tactics deployed by Italy. Featuring a screenshot of Giorgio Chiellini’s rather industrial professional foul on England winger Bukayo Saka, the petitioner stated that the match was “not fair at all,” and Italy received a “yellow card for dragging England players like they were slaves.” Continuing the theme of outrageous accusations and unfathomable pettiness, it also complained that a rematch should be scheduled with an impartial referee. Talk about sore losers.
Chiellini was wrong to haul Saka back by the collar and rightly received a yellow card from Dutch whistler Bjorn Kuipers. As regulation time expired and the Arsenal winger burst beyond Chiellini it was clear to everyone watching it was a cynical foul, but it occurred near the halfway line. Had it been a clear goalscoring opportunity, then the veteran Juventus defender could easily have been dismissed. It wasn’t pretty, but Chiellini committed a foul and paid the price for it.
Should Denmark protest for the semi-final to be played again after Raheem Sterling dived to win a decisive penalty for England? Or maybe Italy can launch a retrospective appeal for a spot-kick after Chiellini was dragged to the ground by England defender John Stones before Leonardo Bonucci equalised. If we embark upon a never-ending path of claim and counterclaim, then it will only cause confusion and ultimately chaos.
Football can often be cruel, unjust and heartbreaking, but the brutal truth is that Italy were the better team in the Final and the best team in the tournament. The Azzurri had a considerably tougher route to the final than England and progressed with style, resolve and the willingness to do anything it took to win. Chiellini was instrumental in that and should be forgiven for a single moment of cynicism.
Clearly, more than 120,000 people who added their names to the petition disagree. There remains a small but vocal minority of the England support that continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Unable to act like decent law-abiding citizens regardless of whether their nation wins or loses, they boo the national anthems of other countries before games, abuse their own players on social media and cause mayhem inside and outside stadiums. Italy fans are not perfect, but we have to respect the final result. Acceptance should slowly prevail and the petition quietly be forgotten.