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International Soccer
Rooney's punishment doesn't fit the crime

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Wayne Rooney has to hope his international career will last five more years, or his memorable Euro 2004 performance might end up being the only one of his career.

Blame England, blame Rooney, and blame UEFA. But the last of the trio deserves the most attention, once again.

Rooney emerged as an 18-year-old at Euro 2004 when he scored four goals as the Three Lions advanced to the quarterfinals. Four years later, England failed to qualify. And next year, Rooney will be banned for group play.

You can argue England won't miss Rooney, as it has a number of rising players, but that's for another discussion. Once again, a superstar will not play in an important tournament after UEFA handed Rooney a three-match ban Thursday.

Unless England does advance from group play (fans are not likely holding their breath).

Rooney earned the suspension for a no doubt foolish, yet still harsh red card. A foul earlier this month in a Euro qualifier, some eight months in advance of the final tournament.

Wayne Rooney earned the suspension for a no doubt foolish, yet still harsh red card.
Part of me still thinks, "Well, he deserved it." He dumbly kicked Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic after losing possession, but by no means was the challenge an attempt to injure.

It was late. It was foolish. It might have even been worthy of a red card.

But was the play, even by someone who does lose his temper, really worthy of a three-game ban from the second-biggest international competition in the sport?

It shouldn't be. Ever. But that's exactly what UEFA decided.

England will appeal, and it's possible the suspension will be reduced a match. But even losing a player such as Rooney for two matches in such a high-profile event does the sport no good.

At some point, it's got to get old to see the best players in the sport erased from the most prominent events, or matches. The list is too long, but the 2002 World Cup final, sans Germany's Michael Ballack, is one that comes to mind.

You could go deeper into other World Cups, European championships and even the UEFA Champions League and uncover too many undeserved suspensions.

Perhaps Rooney deserved the red, and even a one-match suspension that would've seen him miss the first match of Euros (wouldn't want to see that either, just to let you know).

Obviously the red card has its place in the sport, but has become much too big of a part that often alters current and future games - and sometimes on a poor call.

Just look at Jack Rodwell's recent red card for Everton in a match against its rival Liverpool in the English Premier League. Rodwell was red carded early in the game, Liverpool won, then the card was overturned three days later.

Three days later? That doesn't make any sense.

Just like taking Rooney - or any player, for that matter - off the field for a questionable challenge days, weeks or months earlier. Had Rooney wiped out the legs of Dzudovic, just come out of nowhere and kicked him, punched him, or any of the like, then go ahead and toss out whatever suspension is necessary.

But for one moment of frustration, one dumb kick to the side of Dzudovic's leg - Rooney received three games on the sideline. That is just too big of a price to pay, and it cost everyone the chance to enjoy Rooney on the big stage.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
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