After Jose Mourinho's public criticism of the actions of his medical team in Chelsea's game with Swansea, are coaches at liberty to determine their behavior?
Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea City on Saturday was a competitive fixture filled with incident and intrigue. The current champions and preseason favorites were given a shock following a lackluster display, whilst the Swans perhaps deserved more than the sole point they walked away with after a performance that highlighted their fluid style but also their gritty doggedness out of possession. Add to that Blues goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois being sent off and conceding a penalty in the process, and it typified the glorious nature of the Premier League on the opening weekend.
But in the days that have followed, interest has been dragged away from the football itself to an incident between Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and his medical staff. Following a rather innocuous challenge on Eden Hazard in the latter stages of the game, the referee called on the physios to attend to the fallen Belgian. This infuriated Mourinho, the Portuguese manager angrily demanding they return, but due to their decision to treat Hazard, he had to be treated on the sidelines, leaving his team down to nine men for short period.
Mourinho would go on to blast his physios as impulsive and naive in the wake of these actions, whilst Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro has lost her place on the team bench and will have her duties restricted to work at the club’s base. This is a story that has gone far further than it should of gone for what Mourinho in the heat of the moment considered a costly error, but over time would be an event of little consequence. Carneiro is an victim of doing her job as a medical professional, and the coach should have zero say in these matters.
The Football Medical Association agrees with this point of view, and has been disgusted by the treatment of Carneiro in the wake of this incident. “On reflection, the majority of people would consider that the medical staff did nothing wrong,” said chief executive Eamonn Salmon. “They conducted themselves with integrity and professionalism – that is their job. I don’t see they have committed any ill-doing or done anything wrong.
“We feel that she has been treated harshly. The decision after the event is an internal matter for the club to decide on restructuring. Nobody can say for sure if there are any other issues to be considered in the bigger picture.”
Jose Mourinho is a man of many talents and a brilliant football tactician, but as far as I’m aware he doesn’t have an MSc in Sports and Exercise and years of medical training. As a manager, he has a say in what his coaches do and the activities of his players, but he should hold absolutely zero sway over the actions of his physio team. No manager should, because they are simply not qualified to do so, and his fury over the situation is little more than an overblown outburst due to the predicament Chelsea found themselves in.
Might apply for the Chelsea doctor’s job given the applicant must understand football. Not sure if any medical knowledge is required.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 12, 2015
Let’s face it, if they were 2-0 up against Swansea City with 11 men on the field, you wouldn’t expect Mourinho to be jumping to his feet with such anger and visible frustration. He knew that his side were looking vulnerable without Courtois and their opponents in the ascendancy, so he took the chance to dispatch some blame onto a blameless party for their poor result and overall performance. Also, although Mourinho has likely read the rule book with how blatantly he has tread between the lines in the past, he seems to be blissfully unaware that is at to the referee’s discretion as to whether the medical team should be called into action. Video replays have shown that Michael Oliver, the official for this opening match of the season, called for assistance for Hazard twice, forcing the hand of the physios. Otherwise, Carneiro and the others would be forbidden from entering the field of play. And if Mourinho was so assured that Hazard’s injuries weren’t serious, maybe he should instruct his players to actually stand up when they aren’t hurt rather than roll around on the ground for two minutes! The seriousness of this situation is that it sets a bad precedent for physios not only at Chelsea, but in all football clubs across the country. They should not have to tread lightly or live in fear of being sacked or punished for going out and doing their duty. The manager should not be in a position to determine the actions of his physios as their role is to protect the players and inform the bench of injuries. Should we expect in future when players go down hurt in Premier League fixtures for physios to stare arms folded at their manager to check if they’re “allowed” to enter the field of play? Or why don’t they just pass off their kit bag and supplies to Mourinho and see if he can do a better job, considering how he appears to have a sixth sense as to whether treatment is necessary or not? Carneiro has become a scapegoat for no reason whatsoever, and should not start a regrettable and embarrassing trend in the Premier League, or indeed any sport in any country. Hopefully, Jose Mourinho will take a few deep breaths, step away from this situation, and make the fair decision of restoring Carneiro to the bench where she deserves to be for performing her job with the utmost professionalism.