The Local Game: Who hasn't wanted to knee slide in front of a referee?

March 23, 2021 - 11:32

A video clip of the incident has since gone viral and been written up by media outlets the world over, with most seeing the funny side and some condemning Vũ.


Goalkeeper Phạm Trần Thanh Vũ's moment of madness. Photo VPF Media

Peter Cowan

You don’t have to be unhinged to be a goalkeeper, but by all accounts, it certainly helps.

Cần Thơ Capital FC goalkeeper Phạm Trần Thanh Vũ may be plying his trade in Việt Nam’s second tier, but this past weekend he proved he has all the requisite screws loose to make it at the very top of the game, even if he may not quite have the talent.

In their opening match of the V.League 2 season against Công An Nhân Dân, Vũ clattered into an opposing player in the box as he came to collect a cross, receiving a yellow card and conceding a stonewall penalty in added time with the score 1-1.

After protesting briefly, Vũ dusted himself off and duly saved Đinh Thanh Bình’s spot-kick, and the game eventually finished 1-1 but it’s how he celebrated the save that has the football world abuzz.

Instead of celebrating with his teammates or preparing for the coming corner kick, Vũ sprinted towards referee Đỗ Anh Đức and slid to his knees in front of the official, petulantly celebrating his save directly in front of him.

A video clip of the incident has since gone viral and been written up by media outlets the world over, with most seeing the funny side and some condemning Vũ.

There’s been a bit of handwringing about Vũ’s actions and how distasteful the incident was, but honestly, for me, this kind of stuff is what football is all about.

It’s easy to take football a bit too seriously and forget that at the end of the day it’s a game, not some sort of morality play where the actions of 22 men chasing a ball in a field show us how rotten the society they come from is, how kids have lost all sense of right and wrong or anything else so overwrought.

Instead, the beautiful game is just entertainment and the best and purest entertainment is that which can connect emotionally with anyone watching it.

Whether it’s the heartbreaking pain of a cup final loss, the relief of a late equaliser or the hilarity of a calamitous own goal, the moments of pure emotion are what stay with us as fans.

Vũ’s celebration was a moment of ludicrous, glorious and absurd defiance. He had absolutely nothing to complain about with the penalty decision, and yet still felt aggrieved enough to stick it to the man even after saving the spot-kick and righting the injustice he thought had suffered.

Who among us can honestly say we haven’t wanted to thumb our nose to an authority figure when we’ve gotten into trouble, even if we may be in the wrong?

The sheer hilarity of the moment has connected as well, as you can almost see the gears turning in Vũ’s head as he realises what he’s doing is a bit daft and sheepishly turns around and heads back to his goal almost immediately after the knee slide.

That decision to cut his antics short may have saved Vũ a second yellow at the time, but his club have since banned the goalkeeper for two matches and issued a grovelling apology to the referee and fans nationwide.

He may receive even further punishment from the Việt Nam Football Federation who may be a bit miffed at all the international attention on the incident, but I for one hope they take it easy on him.

A ban of a couple of matches is fair enough in my book but there’s no need to make an example of Vũ, as I can’t see many other referees putting up with such behaviour, so we aren’t about to be inundated with goalkeepers gyrating in front of referees or anything of the sort.

But even if every shot-stopper from Cần Thơ to Croydon starts celebrating their penalty saves the same way, would that really be so bad? VNS