The bit of unsportsmanlike conduct you see above comes from Atlético Madrid’s home match against Málaga this past weekend. As you can see, with Málaga in behind Atleti’s defense and acres of green ahead, some ball boy tosses another ball onto the pitch, presumably to distract the players and/or bait the ref into stopping play.
The ref was wise to the ploy and allowed play to continue, and later sent manager Diego Simeone to the stands in response, as La Liga rules provide in this scenario.
That red card wasn’t to be the last Simeone would hear of this, though. Today, the league’s competition committee announced that they have handed the manager a three-match ban from appearing on the sideline. The implication here isn’t that Simeone himself necessarily instructed the ball boy to throw the ball into the field of play, but rather since he and the club would not (or could not) turn over the culprit’s name, the rules state that the manager must face the punishment.
This is a small-to-medium problem for Atlético. Simeone, one of the best managers in the world, will still lead the team in practice and will come up with the game strategy with which they’ll attack the final three teams left on their calendar, so so his on-field absence shouldn’t be all that dire. However, Simeone is his club’s maestro in more ways than one, not only orchestrating who and how Atleti play, but is also the team’s motivational totem. It’s possible that without him pacing the sideline, barking out instructions, and revving up the players and fans, Atleti could suffer a drop in energy which could prove costly in the tightly contested league title race.
The presence of Germán Burgos—Simeone’s assistant who will likely take over the matchday managing responsibilities—should ease those concerns, since he is a plenty fiery character in his own right. Atlético will be fine. Probably.