Since the 1970 FIFA World Cup, football fans have grown accustomed to the referee being able to dish out yellow cards and red cards only to offending players.
However, officials now have another weapon in their armoury – the ‘white card’.
During a match between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon women on Saturday (21 January), the card was used for the very first time in professional football.
Its introduction came as Benfica were 3-0 up against their fierce cross-city rivals, and was necessitated when medical personnel from both sides raced on to the pitch to assist one of the players.
The woman in question had complained of feeling ill during the early part of the match, which saw the medical camps unite to try and assist her.
This action saw the referee issue the never-before-seen white card to both sets of staff, in recognition of their sportsmanship.
The awarding of the card was cheered and applauded by the watching crowd at the Estadio da Luz.
The white card is designed to show recognition to clubs for acts of fair play during a match, in a bid to ‘improve ethical value in the sport’.
The white card has been introduced in Portugal alongside many FIFA initiatives of late.
Football’s international governing body has also introduced concussion substitutes to the game, as well as longer stoppage time – which was most notable during the group stage matches at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
With the white card now finally in use, the hope is that other officials will implement in when they see fit during a game.
Much like the extra stoppage time, the white card has received a somewhat mixed reaction on social media.
Many people replied with applause and praise emojis, showing their appreciation for what the card represents.
However, others couldn’t quite see the point of the gesture.
One Twitter user replied: “effectively means nothing as far as I can tell”.
While another remarked: “What utter claptrap.”
With this in mind, it might be a while before we see the card introduced in the Premier League anytime soon.
For the time being, it remains a Portuguese initiative only, so eyes will be trained on the nation’s domestic leagues to see how fans react to the white card over time.
As for Benfica, they ran out comfortable 5-0 winners over their big domestic rivals to progress to the Semi-finals of the Taca de Portugal.
Credits: Sports Bible