Drogba ‘has to be punished’

Uefa report to condemn striker’s ‘unacceptable’ verbal assault on referee
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Uefa's official match delegate has strongly condemned Chelsea striker Didier Drogba in his formal report on the aftermath of the club’s Champions League semi-final tie with Barcelona.

Janis Mezeckis, the general secretary of the Latvian Football Federation, told Uefa that Drogba's furious outburst at referee Tom Henning Ovrebo on Wednesday night was unacceptable and should be punished.

Chelsea also face accusations of failing to control their fans, as the official has complained about objects being thrown on the Stamford Bridge pitch following Andres Iniesta's 93rd minute equaliser which decided the tie.

Drogba's behaviour, however, is the main focus of the report by Mezeckis, who was at the game and afterwards spoke with Norwegian official Ovrebo and his assistants.

The Chelsea striker has apologised for his aggressive tirade and manager Guus Hiddink yesterday appealed to Uefa for leniency. But Chelsea's hopes appear likely to be dashed as Mezeckis has not held back in his criticism of the events that followed the final whistle. Mezeckis said: "I saw things happen to the referee and one of his assistants that is not acceptable. I have also been told things. This cannot be allowed to happen. There should be some punishment for Drogba."

Uefa will review the reports from Mezeckis and Norwegian referee Ovrebo before they announce on Wednesday what sanctions they will impose on Chelsea and Drogba. A lengthy ban from European football for Drogba now seems a formality.

Uefa will focus on the chaotic events after the final whistle when Ovrebo was confronted by a furious Drogba who continued to berate the official in the tunnel. The Ivory Coast striker was seething that Ovrebo had turned down four penalty appeals for Chelsea. Ovrebo has since gone into hiding in Norway after receiving death threats from Chelsea fans.

Uefa will also criticise Chelsea after their supporters hurled objects at Barcelona players celebrating Iniesta's heart-breaking equaliser. Mezeckis said: "Missiles were thrown on to the pitch. I think they were bottles."

Chelsea publicly gave Drogba their full backing yesterday, despite reservations in private over the striker's explosion of temper after he was guilty of missing the best chance in the game. Hiddink admitted Drogba is unlikely to be fined by the club, after the striker apologised. The Chelsea manager said: "Fining him is up to me and the board, of course, but I don't think so. Apologising is a big step forward. He should not have reacted like he did, but I can understand. I don't know if you have felt injustice. I have. There's a very strong emotion to oppose."

Hiddink said Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich failed to mention Drogba's amazing tirade of abuse when the pair spoke on Thursday, and again yesterday. Instead, the Russian oligarch was said to have been impressed by the team's determination. "He did not comment about the behaviour when I spoke with him yesterday [Thursday]," Hiddink said. "He said Chelsea put in a very good performance. I agreed. The owner didn't say anything about what happened after the game."

Hiddink said he hoped Drogba's apology might lessen Uefa's punishment. "When people apologise the first step has been taken towards making things normal," he said.

Any ban by Uefa would affect Drogba's availability for next season's Champions League campaign, for Chelsea or anyone else. While in public Chelsea have given Drogba their full support, in private there is a feeling that the time might well have come for him to leave Stamford Bridge. It is no coincidence that talks on a new contract have gone nowhere.

Chelsea understandably are keen to draw a line under the unsavoury events of Wednesday night. Hiddink appealed to Chelsea fans to stop hounding Ovrebo, saying: "There's zero tolerance towards those things. Hopefully he'll be having his rest, wherever he is."

The personable Hiddink only has four games left at Chelsea, starting with tomorrow's trip to Arsenal – a match that could well decide third place in the Premier League. Hiddink said he will assess Drogba's state of mind – and ankle – before deciding if he can play. "We'll see, physically and mentally, if he can play," he said. "I have to reflect before taking a decision."

Hiddink admitted it will be hard to leave at the end of the month to return full-time to his other job as coach of Russia, as he has developed an emotional attachment to Chelsea. "I could have come here and done my daily routine for three months. But that's not the way I like to work," he said. "You have to get the feeling. In the end, though, we part. That's how it is. Let's not be too dramatic. That's life."

Comments