By 90Min
September 18, 2018

Stop Crying. Everyone gets fouled, why should he be treated any differently? Take it as a compliment!

In light of the furore regarding Wilfried Zaha's treatment from both referees and opposition players this week, some of the opinions have been naive beyond belief. 

Malcolm Couzens/GettyImages

Most notably, when Garth Crooks placed the Ivorian in his 'Team of the Week', even he couldn't allow himself to just appreciate the forward's talents. Instead, the BBC pundit weighed in with this stinker of a quote. 

"Stop whinging and whining in your post-match interviews. You're playing a contact sport, the better the player the more likely you are to get kicked.

"Leave the referees and the pundits to condemn the assassins."

Out of context, that's all well and good. However, if you are attempting to speak in context, you'd have to be a moron to think that this opinion is the be all and end all of this unacceptable situation. 

We're talking about an immense player here, first and foremost. One whose talents entice fans, both young and old, to travel to wherever Crystal Palace are playing just to take in his ability. 

An ability so exceptional, that even Huddersfield fans could be seen applauding his winning strike against them. 

So, when this very same player tells the world that the constant fouling 'makes you not want to go on a run and it doesn't allow you to express yourself', is anything going to be done? 

This 25-year-old sensation is clearly affected by the abusive nature of the fouls from opposition players; just five games into this season, he has already missed a game through injury, had Etienne Capoue's studs raked down his calf, as well as almost having his ankle broken by Mathias Jorgensen. 

The BBC has revealed that Zaha is the second most fouled player in the Premier League since 2013, behind only Eden Hazard. 

He is also just shy of the Belgian in attempted dribbles since the same year, proving that he has previously been no stranger to taking on opponents. 

However, this season, compared to last, Zaha is attempting significantly less dribbles, but receiving more fouls. 

Having been a season ticket holder at Selhurst Park for many years, and luckily being able to watch this mercurial talent's career blossom, I can safely say it has always been this way in terms of his endangerment. 

I believe it is only now that the Ivory Coast international is starting to find an end product to his naturally dazzling dribbling abilities that the thuggish fouling has gone this far out of hand. 

You may be wondering, 'Hang on, Hazard gets fouled more than Zaha, why aren't we talking about his treatment?'

To answer that, it is the Belgian's international status as one of the best players on the planet that excludes him from the same treatment as Zaha gets, as well as the quality players around him. 

Hazard draws a far greater respect from the opposition thanks to his reputation in the game, 

At Palace, with all due respect, the opposition know that Zaha is the main danger man, the one who his teammates are relying on to win them the game. 

As a result, in contrast to where they'll have the likes of Pedro, Willian and others to contend with alongside Hazard, players set about nullifying Zaha in any way that they can. 

To build on the aforementioned point about Zaha's rough treatment going up a notch as he improves as a player, it can be argued that it has also increased as no significant consequences have been witnessed. 

Let's not beat around the bush here. We've probably all seen Capoue's challenge on Zaha, in which the ball was inexplicably nowhere near the Frenchman for him to nick it off Palace's number 11 in any way, shape or form. 

Capoue intentionally set out to hurt Zaha, as he attempted to play the big man to win over a Vicarage Road faithful intent on vilifying the forward for an unjust diving reputation, one that they so happened to be the victims of on many occasions. 

MB Media/GettyImages

You learn through consequence. You learn through positive and negative reinforcement. 

In this case, the Watford man skipped happily away with a yellow card, a stadium chanting his name, and no chance of retrospective action taking place as the referee on the day 'concluded' the situation. 

This happened early on in a game that the Eagles 'coincidentally' went on to lose, with their star man clearly rattled by the incident and the prospect of having his season ended before it had even got going. 

Professional footballers, stereotypes aside, are not stupid. The talk of almost every Premier League dressing room when they take on Crystal Palace will be to do the exact same thing as Capoue did early on, safe in the knowledge that no serious consequences will be faced. 

'What can be done?' I hear you ask. Even Zaha himself has said he doesn't know what to do anymore. 

Palace have complained to the Premier League, and it is up to the so called 'best league in the world' to protect the players that bring in the interest and resulting finances that they crave. 

If things don't change, what's to stop this precocious talent being forced to retire prematurely? 

Or even worse, as far as every other club's supporters are concerned, one of their own beloved players having his leg snapped thanks to inept officiating? 

Absolutely no player should have to be fearful of going on a dribble. Lose that and we lose the art of football.

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