During a recent brief trip to Spain, I was happy to take the chance to see that Riquelme chap and his Villareal mates visit Deportivo La Coruna. (I can recommend La Coruna for a weekend away, by the way, it’s gloriously situated, has enough to do and is very friendly. What’s more the football ground is right by the beach on one of Coruna’s dramatically sweeping bays. It’s great. Anyway…)

I was interested to see the referee wave away appeals from the Depor fans and players alike after what looked for all the world like a Villareal back pass. A Villareal player under not-much pressure kicked the ball and it rolled tamely back to the goalie, who picked it up. That’s a back pass, right? Well, not if it was a mis-kick, if the player didn’t mean to, if they didn’t know what they were doing.

Now, someone who shall remain unnamed (on account of I’ve forgotten who it was) was talking me through the Catholic Church’s attitude to suicide recently. Suicide is a mortal sin and, by the letter of the law, suicides may not be buried on consecrated ground. However, if the person is insane, they are let off because they don’t know what they are doing. Apparently, in most cases of suicide these days, the Church considers that the deceased must have been insane to carry out the act, and so their relatives are allowed to bury them as Catholics, and are not in a position of having to assume their loved ones are facing an automatic eternity in hell. This seems a perfectly sensible and humane thing to me, though I’ve no idea how true it is.

And it seems to me that the refereeing community have made a similar shuffle. No player would have deliberately passed back in that situation, so it’s only reasonable to assume that any apparent back pass was an accident. No foul. On you go. Sporting laws that require an assessment of intent: a bad thing, on the whole, right? We don’t want to ask our referees to see into our souls before deciding between fair and not fair. And don’t get me started on the matter of interfering with play.

This priest-ref parallel is probably worth thinking about some more, but this morning I am failing to get past the mental image of an irate Keano in an intricately carved confessional, bulgy-veined and screaming about some small penance.