Wenger attacks foul play in England

January 6, 2007

LONDON, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has launched a scathing attack on deliberate foul play in the English game and blamed referees for failing to protect talented players.

Wenger said he was a great admirer of the bravery and physical contact that was part of the English style of play, but said that some players and teams deliberately kicked opponents and escaped punishment.

'I don't blame the other managers, or the players - if they are asked to give 100 per cent, then of course, they do - but it is the referees who have to decide how far they can go,' Wenger told reporters.

'We have a young team and they are kicked and punched. And in the end, you are still supposed to say 'sorry, I am not strong enough?' That is difficult to take, frankly.

'I don't feel it is right to punch people in the stomach and afterwards to say 'ok, they are just babies crying'. It is not the way I see the game.'

He said deliberate foul play could hold the English national team back in international tournaments like the World Cup finals.

'And I feel sometimes, if that is football, that's the way we go then it doesn't progress English football. And I am sorry because if you go to the World Cup you cannot say you behave like that - because you go nowhere,' he said.

Wenger also said he had video evidence of well-known players and managers swearing freely at referees and not being punished, despite foul and abusive language being a dismissible offence.

Prompted to confirm that Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was one of the swearing players, Wenger said: 'He is not the only one.'

Wenger said he did not swear at referees and believed players and managers should not do so at all.