Created on 07-04-2008 at 00:00 AM
“Obviously, I have a bad boy reputation,” Mark van Bommel himself admits, “but all I’m doing is playing at the limit.“ The Dutchman’s physical and robust tackling is exactly what makes him so valuable at Bayern, and fouls are always a likely consequence, but Van Bommel is anything but a dirty player. Indeed, the 30-year-old was only booked twice in the entire first half of the season.
However, he has appeared cursed since the winter break. Against VfL Bochum, he was dismissed for two bookable offences for the second time in a matter of weeks, his first two sendings-off in 18 months of Bundesliga football. “It was my fault,” he acknowledged following his red card against Hamburger SV, and he also accepted a further ban for a gesture aimed at the referee, but he reacted to the decision against Bochum with incomprehension.
“I don’t think it deserved two bookings. The second yellow card wasn’t even a foul,” he lamented after match official Michael Weiner handed him his marching orders on 27 minutes. Uli Hoeneß was equally unhappy. “They weren’t the kind of fouls you need to punish with a card,” the board director commented. “He was very fussy. It all felt like women’s football to me,“ Ottmar Hitzfeld agreed.
Equally dismayed captain Oliver Kahn sought out Weiner after the match. “I’ve talked to the referee. He told me it was the number of fouls, not how bad they were. That’s the only way you can justify the sending off,” explained Kahn, criticising the over-strict application of the laws in the German top flight. “I don’t believe he’d have been sent off in a European tie. We tend towards whistling for too much in the Bundesliga.“
Van Bommel ‘a marked man’
Hoeneß agreed with the skipper. “I watched Manchester City against Chelsea yesterday evening. If Mr Weiner had been the ref, there’d have been 35 bookings,” he grimaced. To add to the problem, referees are clearly watching Van Bommel extremely closely. “Unfortunately, certain players are singled out by the media – and the refs would appear to read the papers,” opined Hoeneß, “I’m not sure a different player would have been sent off for the same offence.“
Kahn feels Van Bommel is “a marked man. They seem to be thinking: Ah, foul, ah, Van Bommel, I’ll have to react twice as much to that,” the FCB captain mused. Van Bommel himself denied that was the case. “Referees are only human, they’re influenced by the media,” he reflected, “but I can’t change the way I play.“
’He should stay the way he is’
Kahn is not recommending any such thing. “He should stay the way he is,” the keeper declared, “we need a player like Mark to send out a signal every now and then. None of his fouls are malicious, they’re just hard tackles. Mark just needs to watch himself a bit.“