The Bermuda Football Association (BFA) has brandished a severe five-year ban from football for 28-year-old Bermudian footballer Detroy Smith, following a spitting incident on 26 December 2013…
Sometimes our beautiful game is marred by unsavory acts. There is absolutely no room for spitting in any part of society, particularly in football. It’s a disgusting thing to do and is very rarely, if at all, justified. Clearly the BFA have simply had enough…
The incident with Smith started back on Boxing Day last year during a Friendship Trophy semi-final between St David’s – the club he plays for – and Somerset Trojans at the Wellington Oval. The match ended 3-2 to Trojans, with Smith grabbing his side’s first goal. Everything seemed to be running smoothly.
Until, that is, Smith was handed a second yellow card for dissent late in the tie and decided to spit on the back of referee Anthony Francis’ shirt. Spectators were left with their mouths wide open as Smith stormed off and Francis headed to the changing rooms in disgust, contemplating calling the game off. He didn’t. Fellow BFA officials present talked him into coming back onto the pitch and finishing up.
As a consequence for his actions, Smith – who is also a cricketer – was given a lengthy 10-game ban by his club. A post on the St Davids CCC Management Facebook page said: “Please be advised that after the incident with Detroy Smith in the Boxing Day game vs Somerset Trojans, the club has issued Detroy a 10 game suspension [6 Premier Div and 4 PDL games] and 1 year probation.” But that wasn’t all. He awaited a disciplinary hearing from the BFA, too, and the final verdict was made just this week: a five-year ban.
The BFA ban results in no participation in any of the organisation’s programmes during that time. I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s quite a severe punishment. But it sends out a very clear and powerful message. Simply, Bermudian football will not tolerate spitting.
The BFA President Larry Mussenden has been very condemnatory of Smith’s behavior and concise about how spitting is viewed on the island. He told the newspaper website The Royal Gazette: “There is no excuse regardless of the circumstances that should bring a player or any person for that matter of fact to such action whether on or off the field. Spitting is a serious offence in a civilised society, in particular, the sport of football that promotes fair play and respect for each other.”
Mussenden added: “In this regard, everyone is reminded that there are rules and there are consequences for breaking the rules. All players are reminded to respect the laws of the game and the fair play values that are exchanged at the beginning of each match between players and officials.”
He’s certainly said all the right things. Readers of this will have their own personal opinions on the length and magnitude of the ban. Will this act as an effective deterrent? You would think so. Five years is a long, long time and specially in football. Smith will miss out on an awful lot of competitive action and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him fade away into the distance; take up something new.
But Smith isn’t alone in being the perpetrator of spitting at a referee in Bermuda. It’s happened before, back in 2006 in a Dudley Eve match. Boulevard Blazers midfielder Melchisedec Gibbons spat on Francis – who was also the head official on that day – after receiving a red card. Interestingly, Gibbons was only banned for one year. Smith gets five. Fair? In hindsight, probably not. Evidently the BFA have had enough and came down hard.
To think the English Football Association (FA) deems a player racially abusing another player as a five-game ban is in stark contrast to the BFA’s outlook. Perceptions and punishments alter in different countries. Most in Bermuda think five years is about right. I bet in England, or indeed the rest of the United Kingdom, most would disagree and feel just a fine in wages or two-match ban would suffice.
Football journalist for the Guardian newspaper, Barry Glendenning, gave his stance on the spitting situation back in 2009. He wrote: “As unpleasantness in the sporting arena goes, just how wrong is gobbing at a fellow player? Many consider it to be as bad as it gets, but might change their tune if forced to choose between a face-full of gob or an ankle-breaking reducer. In 36 years on God’s green earth, only one person has intentionally spat in my face, and even though it happened a quarter of a century ago, I can remember who did it, where it happened and how disgusting it felt when, with trembling hand, I wiped his odorous slime from a left cheek that was burning with rage. The bloke who did it got away with it, because he was bigger than me and a handy boxer, but if I’d thought I could have had him he’d have been beaten to a pulp. Had he spat at my feet, I honestly don’t think I’d have given it a second thought.”
Some people view it as not that bad. But imagine having it done to you…twice? In front of a live audience on both occasions? Just like Francis. He’s a brave man to carry on refereeing after being spat on twice. No-one should have to go through that. The whole football community in Bermuda is behind him.
A bit about Smith’s background: he actually has a criminal record and is not the typical footballer. Back in the summer of 2010, he was accused of robbing a St. George’s household at gunpoint. Smith and Wesley Stovell were said to have stormed into the house in Slip Point Lane in broad daylight – armed with a handgun – and stolen $1,200 from the occupants during the raid.
Then in May 2013, Smith was jailed for six months after threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend. The story is explained in The Royal Gazette: “Smith was in the US to attend the birth of a second son by another woman when he contacted his ex on the whatsApp social network site. During the course of the day, the pair exchanged several text messages, but Smith became angry when he learned that Ms Pearman, who ended the relationship last summer, was dating another man.”
In one message he wrote: “I’m going f***ing kill u.”
And in another exchange he wrote: “Remember I was told u had him round *** so if I want I can put d word out 2 f**k him over.”
It’s no real shock, then, that Smith was trouble on the football field. In effect, St David’s had a criminal charging around in the middle of the park. Smith is an exceptional case but clearly not right. His past criminal record may help explain why he committed such unsavory incidents on the pitch. He knew no better. That’s not to say it is allowed, though. Of course not. There’s no place for spitting in football. Or anywhere for that matter.
*Do you feel five years is the correct/fair punishment for a player spitting on an official? How seriously do you consider spitting to be within the game? Let us know via the comments box below or on Twitter, @caribbeanftbl