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Don Garber defends MLS discipline of Zlatan Ibrahimović following LAFC controversy

Ibrahimović received only a yellow card while El-Munir underwent surgery for facial fracture

MLS Commissioner Don Garber defended the league's discipline of star Zlatan Ibrahimović. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — MLS Commissioner Don Garber addressed recent criticism from players and fans over the MLS Disciplinary Committee’s decision not to suspend LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimović for an elbow which injured LAFC’s Mohamed El-Munir.

Ibrahimović was given a yellow card for the collision on July 19, while El-Munir had surgery for a facial fracture.

Garber told Pro Soccer USA Monday he wasn’t surprised by the reaction and pointed out Ibrahimović was suspended in May for two games for “violent conduct” following a game against NYCFC.

“When I hear that people think we made a decision to protect him, I remind them that a few weeks earlier I suspended him for a couple of games and people don’t remember that,” Garber said. “It’s the reality. Fans are fans. I understand that.”

It’s not just fans who have voiced their displeasure over Ibrahimović’s lack of a suspension.

Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara went on Twitter and wrote: “We should just play to zlatan’s rules… if we don’t already… SMFH.”

In the waning moments of LA Galaxy’s 3-2 win over LAFC, Ibrahimović and El-Munir leaped into the air to try and head the ball. Ibrahimović, who is 6-foot-5, landed an elbow on El-Munir, who is 5-foot-10.

Ibrahimović took a couple of peeks toward El-Munir before jumping into the air for the challenge. Neither player got the ball.

El-Munir laid on the ground after the challenge, while Ibrahimović was given a yellow card. Once the game ended, members of LAFC’s coaching staff went toward Ibrahimović to voice their displeasure with the elbow. 

A red card would have meant Ibrahimović being sent off for the rest of the game and a one-match ban.

In the past, the disciplinary committee has gone back and extended suspensions to two games for conduct they feel is “violent.”

Ibrahimović addressed the criticism saying: “I feel like I am hunted. But when you are the best, you’re hunted.”

Garber said the discipline committee did its job evaluating the incident.

“We have to live in a world where our credibility is pure,” Garber said. “And our discipline committee is made up of ex-players, made up of members of the referee community who have no relationship with me or anybody in the league office as it relates to their decisions.

“And they got to decide on what they rule based on what precedents have been set and based on their knowledge of the game, which in many ways is probably more experience than what a fan base sees.”

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