We all know that soccer players don’t play fair. When the game gets really tense, soccer players can use a lot of dirty tricks to infuriate their opponents and cause them to lose focus thereby increasing their chances of winning.
From verbal intimidation to rough tackles to thwart any attempts made by the opponent, there really is no limit to how far some players go. One of the odd ways soccer players use to get on the nerves of their opponent is by fingering them.
Fingering can come in different forms but none of them is less annoying. Every professional soccer player—especially the attackers—must have been fingered in their career.
If fingering is really offensive, why do soccer players do it and what do they hope to achieve? In this post, we will tell you all the reasons behind this awkward practice among soccer players.
Why do soccer players finger each other?
The most frequent cause of fingering is one soccer player poking their index finger in the face of their opponent during a heated argument. However, there have been few cases of soccer players that took fingering to the extreme.
In November 2017, Brazilian soccer player Rodrigo Baldasso da Costa who plays center back for Ponte Preta was shown a red card by the referee for putting his finger, twice, into the rear of Rodrigo Tellez, a Vittoria player.
However, that was not the first of such incidents in soccer. In the quarterfinals of the 2015 Copa America, there was a similar incident where Gonzalo Jara of Chile fingered Edison Cavani’s butt.
Jara was eventually handed a three-match ban for that act. Unlike soccer, fingering often called “oil check” is legal in Jiu-Jitsu.
It is a technical maneuver used by fighters to force their opponents to change position. As the fighter focuses more on protecting his butt, he opens himself to attack.
While soccer frowns at fingering a player’s butt, some other forms of fingering will not attract a caution from the referee. Below are the reasons why soccer players finger each other.
Read more: Why Do Soccer Players Hold Hands?
Nonverbal form of communication
Soccer is a very interesting sport that brings people from different countries together. A typical soccer team usually consists of players that speak different languages—and communication is usually a big deal.
Likewise, during championships like the Champions League, clubs usually travel to other countries to play. When the rivalry gets intense and players get physical, raining abuse on your opponent will be fruitless if he or she doesn’t understand your language.
Interestingly, gestures are more universal than words. Therefore, rather than telling another player something like, “get this into your thick skull” or “why the hell did you do that?”, the player that feels offended will simply point a finger at the other player’s head.
This way, the offended player has broken the language barrier that may exist between the two. Even when both players involved in the confrontation speak the same language, there are two other reasons why they may resort to fingering each other rather than the use of words.
1. The stadium is usually too loud
Assuming one player wants to throw a tantrum and uses his or her voice, the field may be too loud for the receiving player to hear what he or she is saying. However, when one player fingers the other, the message is hardly lost.
2. Avoiding disciplinary action
FIFA frowns at making racist comments against other players and a soccer player can get a lengthy match ban for doing so. When tempers are flaring, it may be hard to control the words that come out of your mouth.
Obviously, a soccer player cannot be sanctioned for words they did not say. So, fingering another player to pass a message is a smart way of avoiding harsh disciplinary actions.
Finger-pointing is also a form of communication between teammates. You will mostly see this during a set piece when one player is telling a teammate to mark a free opposition player.
Distracting opponent players
Sometimes winning a game boils down to how much you can distract your opponent. Some soccer players use their fingers to achieve the right amount of distraction.
For example, during a freekick or corner kicks, players usually gather together a short distance beyond the walls or in the 18-yard box. In such instances, every player is supposed to focus on the ball so that they can time their runs or jumps.
Defenders often finger attackers in an attempt to get them to look away from the ball. That split-second loss of focus may just be enough to stop the striker from scoring a vital goal.
Intimidate their opponent
Intimidation is an effective weapon in soccer to instill fear in your opponents. A soccer player without confidence will easily give away the ball because it takes a lot of confidence to take on your opponent.
Sometimes when a soccer player points their finger to the face of their opponent, they are just trying to establish dominance and get the players to cower.
Goalkeepers use this technique a lot during penalty kicks. They will stand in front of the penalty taker and point their fingers into their face and may mumble inaudibly.
Once the penalty taker panics, he or she will likely kick the ball over the crossbar or right into the hands of the goalkeeper.
To criticize or encourage a teammate
Soccer players don’t always play according to instruction. When a soccer player plays against instruction and it turns out successful, he or she will be praised for it.
However, when the effort goes awry, the soccer player will usually get a backlash. You will see this mostly when a player chooses to go for goal rather than pass the ball to a free teammate.
If the player misses the goal, the player that was expecting to receive the pass will usually show his or her frustration using their hands.
Also, when a team is not performing as they should, the team captain will usually use hand signs including fingering the teammates to get their attention and issue commands as well as to encourage the team.
Fingering ensures that the message is not lost amidst the noisy stadium. It can also make it harder for the opposition to understand the team’s tactics.
Fingering can save a life in soccer
Whenever we hear fingering, it almost always comes with a negative incident. However, there are times when players have shown great sportsmanship against their opponents using their fingers.
For example, in 2017 during an encounter between Bohemians and Slovacko, the Bohemians goalkeeper Martin Berkovec collided with his own player and fell unconscious.
Slovako striker Francis Kone rushed to his side and stuck his fingers into the mouth of the unconscious goalie. This was to prevent the goalkeeper from swallowing his tongue which would have been fatal.
In a post-match interview, Kone told reporters that it was the fourth time he was coming to the rescue of a player on the pitch. Sticking fingers into the mouth of an unconscious player also ensures that they keep breathing and don’t suffer organ damage from the lack of oxygen.
Like every other sport, soccer requires an unwavering focus and keeping your emotions in check. Some soccer players use a lot of tricks to remove that focus from their opponents.
With focus gone, it is hard for any soccer player to perform at their best—and may start committing blunders with their passes or behavior which may eventually lead to a booking by the referee.
Fingering your opponent is illegal in soccer, it is easy for a soccer player to do it without being spotted by the referee. However, in a game that involves VAR, no action goes unnoticed.
While fingering opponent players is effective in stealing their concentration, you must do it cautiously to avoid getting in the bad book of the referee.
Also, it is important to mention that some players have developed a thick skin against such antics. Therefore, don’t expect fingering to work on all players.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
The Pitch is Ours is a new beginning for me and a stepping stone to prepare before retiring from the professional soccer team. Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!