Fellaini’s headbutt merits three-month ban

John Inverdale
IMAGINE you are in the penalty area and there’s a lot of jostling going on between you and an opposition defender, and you feel the need to take some unilateral action. Do you: a) push him away vigorously; b) elbow him in the ribs; c) punch him; d) give him a head-butt?

Marouane Fellaini opted for d) in Everton’s match at Stoke on Saturday, posing many questions – some frivolous, some serious. Have you ever head-butted someone? The risk of looking a complete idiot is considerable. You could time it wrong, and if the victim backs away, you end up with the top of your head in his neck. Not cool.

Fellaini was right on Ryan Shawcross’s button, as the expression on the Stoke player’s face testifies. The blow was probably cushioned by the Belgian’s lavish mop of hair, reminiscent of Michael Jackson in those Jackson 5 days, but it clearly hurt nonetheless.

Has Fellaini practiced this form of assault to get it so right? Has he repeatedly watched Zinedine Zidane’s iconic World Cup Final head-butt? Put simply, it is just a truly extraordinary thing to do on the field of play – up there with the Cantona kung-fu kick – and it is a real test of the game’s authorities to see how they respond.

A few weeks ago the New Zealand rugby hooker Andrew Hore assaulted Wales’s Bradley Davies. Hore got a five-week ban, making the sentencing panel more culpable than the original offender. Football can show rugby the way here. Forget the contrition and apology; that is three months out of the game.

Another unfathomable question is just how brilliant the television set must be at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke. Engineers have managed to source a previously unfound way of enabling the beleaguered football manager to see an incident everyone is talking about. As a consequence, the admirable David Moyes was able to say after the match that a) he had seen the head-butt, b) it was unacceptable and c) the player should be punished. Never mind goal-line technology, this is a development in the sport that should be welcomed by us all. Could someone have a word with the guys at Emirates Stadium please?