PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti was given an unusual yellow card on Saturday for anti-sporting behavior known in the game as "trickery" after dropping to his knees and using his head to send the ball trickling back to his goalkeeper.
Standing on the edge of the penalty area during a French League match against Nantes, the Italy international was under no pressure and had no opposition player within 20 meters (yards) of him. But Verratti suddenly went on his knees and managed to flick the ball with his head to PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who could then pick it up because Verratti had not passed the ball back with his feet.
The 24-year-old Verratti's gesture looked even more unusual because he then collected the ball straight back from Trapp and looked to pass it out from the back, which he could have done in the first place.
Referee Johan Hamel immediately called Verratti over and showed him a yellow card, prompting an angry reaction from PSG players. Verratti, Brazil center half Marquinhos, and midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta all protested as they crowded Hamel.
After the game, Hamel took the rare step of going on TV to explain precisely why he had cautioned Verratti, who has a long-standing reputation in the French league for constantly arguing with officials.
""The player deliberately bypassed the laws of the game. This is trickery whether the goalkeeper collects the ball or not," Hamel said on Canal Plus. "The defender (Verratti in this case) should be punished for anti-sporting behavior. He is using improper means to get around the laws of the game. This means an indirect free kick and a booking."
Hamel had no regrets.
"I know this is a bit unusual, but in my mind it was clear," Hamel said. "I'm here to apply the laws of the game, it's part of our duty. We're here to make this kind of decision, we're prepared for it."