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The first-ever green card has been awarded in a football match

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Dave Fawbert
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History was made this weekend in a Serie B match between Virtus Entella and Vicenza, when a player received the game's first-ever green card.

But what do you have to do to earn a green card we hear you ask? Is it like hockey - a warning card before a yellow card? Or a sin bin trial?

No - it's actually awarded for instances of fair play on the pitch. Vicenza striker Cristian Galano was the first recipient of the award after admitting that no defenders had touched his shot, after the referee, Marco Mainardi, incorrectly awarded a corner. The decision was then changed to be a goal kick.

The player shown the most cards over the season will receive an award, although we have no idea what that might be. Perhaps some premium bonds or something.

Serie B president Andrea Abodi explained that the initiative is designed to try and help the reputation of the Italian leagues, following the match-fixing scandal that erupted at the start of the season.

“It’s a symbolic award,” said Abodi. “It could be something very simple. The important thing is to recognise it when a professional does something exemplary."

A Serie B spokesman added, "We think that football needs positive messages. This sport is too often embroiled in controversy that drives people away from the stadiums.”

So far, so commendable. But is this actually something we want to catch on?

West Ham's Paolo di Canio famously won a FIFA Fair Play award after catching the ball instead of shooting, when Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying stricken on the floor during a match in 2000.

Again, a nice thing to do when someone was potentially hurt. We're all for that sort of thing.

But do we really want our players being honest over decisions such as corners and free-kicks? I mean, it's literally just not cricket is it?

The confrontational aspect of football is one of its greatest strengths.

Consider this:

It's just the most dastardly, evil thing isn't it? Inexcusable. Awful. And yet, who can honestly say that they don't have a tiny piece of admiration for just how devilish it was? And the millions watching back in Uruguay probably didn't care either (nb. the best bit is the 'who, me?' gesture when he is shown the red card).

And even if you hate him, isn't it part of the fun of football, to have someone to really hate? That pantomime villain who we can all demonise? What would we talk about if every single decision was correct? Goalline technology - yes, that's an unarguable fact, whether a ball has, or has not, crossed a line, but there's so much grey area in football, and many would argue that it's there that all the fun lies: the arguments; the controversy; the injustice; the stories.

Furthermore, we already have situations where Europa League spots can be awarded for teams with the best fair play record - it's only logical that, if a green card was introduced into football, then prized competition spots might be given away on the basis of these cards. Imagine a last game of the season where two teams play each other, both with similar amounts of green cards and try to out-nice each other. "It's your corner, honestly." "No, please, it really isn't, it's definitely your goal kick." It would be nauseating to watch.

While this might be an extreme example, it does beg the question: could there be such a thing as too much honesty in football?

It's grubby, but perhaps that's the way we really like it.

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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