Although it was Manchester City who won Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, Kepa Arrizabalaga was the name on every football fan’s lips after the extraordinary scenes we all witnessed in extra-time at Wembley.
The Spanish goalkeeper, 24, refused to come off the pitch after Maurizio Sarri decided to substitute him.
Sarri believed Kepa was injured and was subsequently desperate to replace him with Willy Caballero, who was on the touchline waiting to come on, ahead of the penalty shoot-out.
However, Kepa wouldn’t come off the pitch, much to his manager’s immense frustration.
Fuming with his goalkeeper’s refusal to leave the field of play, Sarri was left with little option but to watch on helplessly as Kepa continued until the end of extra-time and then penalties.
However, Kepa was unable to prevent the Blues from losing the shoot-out, as City registered a 4-3 win on spot-kicks following a gruelling 120 minutes.
While many football fans have called Kepa a disgrace for his actions, others believe it was the duty of referee Jon Moss to ensure the Spaniard left the pitch after his number was shown on the electronic board.
However, the Football Association’s Official Laws of the Game and FA Rules state that Moss was not in a position to demand Kepa left the field of play.
Under ‘Substitution Procedure’ of Law 3: The Players, on the FA’s website, it clearly states in the rules:
“If a player who is to be replaced refuses to leave, play continues.”
The International Football Association Board [IFAB] state the exact same thing on their website.
Remarkably, it turns out Kepa was within his right to refuse to be substituted. There’s nothing any of the match officials can do in this situation.
Unless a player accepts his manager’s request to come off, the substitution cannot happen.
It’s bizarre to think this rule actually exists. Will we now see more players refuse to be substituted?
Sarri played down the incident in his post-match press conference, taking responsibility for ‘misunderstanding’ the situation.
“I misunderstood the problem and only realised the situation when the doctor arrived at the bench,” he was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
“He understood I asked for a change for his physical problem. He said: ‘I haven’t a physical problem.’ And he was right.”
Kepa, meanwhile, insisted it was not his intention to deliberately disobey his manager, who is under pressure following a poor start to his tenure with Chelsea.
“It was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey or anything like that with the boss,” he added.
“It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench and they explained everything well.
“He thought I couldn’t continue, and – fundamentally – I was trying to say that physically I was fine.”