“Well, you could see he was clearly offside, the linesman didn’t call it and we lost the game.”
It is so easy to blame the ref for the loss that a few managers might even come to the match sometime in the future, and hope the referee pulls off a blunder so that he can share the blame with him. Instead of accepting their side’s lack of creativity and ruthlessness in front of goal, managers and players sometimes take the easy route of blaming the match officials of being biased or sometimes ‘blind’. Fans and managers have the TV replays to confirm the decisions. Referees on the other hand have two eyes and a few seconds to do the same. Tougher for the linesman as they just have a fraction of a second to judge whether the attacker was behind the last man. Instead of respecting their decisions, fans, players and managers slaughter and ensure they’re made scapegoats. The managers sometimes blame the referees for some decisions when they just have a second to act. What about the manager who has a whole week to decide his lineup for the next game and even more for the game after? They have the whole synopsis of their opponents, how they’ll pass and move with the ball, how they mark and who is the target man. The referees don’t have that. They don’t know which player would dive or who would make a tackle on which player. Yes, they go through clips of players and train themselves but the manager should take the responsibility for his team’s performance and should not expect the referee to be responsible for this team. Referees are easy targets in the modern game and are made scapegoats for any team’s fortune.
A few years ago, Ramires accused Mark Clattenburg, the match official, of being a racist. The match played between Manchester United and Chelsea had already been controversial enough after Fernando Torres was sent off after receiving a second yellow for an alleged dive. Chelsea were down to 9 men after Ivanovic had already been sent off before. United won the game 3-2 when Javier Hernandez scored after being slightly offside. After all the controversy, Chelsea player Ramires accused Mark Clattenburg of being a racist and Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea manager at that time, chose to act without any further proofs and complained to the FA. Mark Clattenburg could not officiate a match till his hearing and was judged not guilty. Match had been lost, referee made the scapegoat and was even accused of being a racist.
In the 2010 World Cup final, Howard Webb was made the scapegoat by the Dutch national team after they suffered a loss in the last few minutes of the Additional Extra Time. What wasn’t seen was their flying winger Arjen Robben had some great chances to kill the game off but he missed. Joris Mathijsen had an excellent chance off his header which wasn’t put in the back of the net and John Heitinga was sent off in the 109′ for a challenge on Andrés Iniesta. Also, Webb had wrongly kept Nigel de Jong on the pitch after a horrible kung fu tackle on Xabi Alonso. All that, and Iniesta scored thus denying Holland the World Cup.
In the 2013 Champions League Round of 16, Nani was arguably shown a straight red by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir who deemed Nani’s leg high enough and sent him off. United seemed to be in control of the game, leading it 1-0 until the red card. Real Madrid went on to score 2 goals and win the game. Pundits felt the red card was harsh but Nani gave the referee the chance to think and got himself sent off. The pundits and fans saw the clip a few times and could conclude that it was harsh but the referee didn’t see it twice.
Did Nani deserve the red card? Was it a right decision? Did it affect the game? It surely did as the scoreline suggest but United still had chances with Van Persie wasting some and others were denied by the Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Today’s referees and fans should thank the 2006 FIFA World Cup , Frank Lampard and Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, who had controversially disallowed Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany which was clearly over the line, for the goal line technology that exists in the modern game. Jorge Larrionda was fired after the tournament and had to go through the abuse of several England fans and maybe still does for a mistake he made on a football pitch. The pundits again, after seeing the clips on replay said it was one of the worst referring decisions but sadly the referee could only watch it once and decide. Frank Lampard, as honest as he is, recently admitted that he did not regret that goal because he was happy that he could bring a change to the game.
Last year, in the final games of an intense English Premier League season, José Mourinho’s Chelsea lost to Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. José Mourinho congratulated the referee Mike Dean for the penalty he had awarded to the Black Cats. Chelsea couldn’t breach the Sunderland defence that night and paid a heavy price for that, which was a Premier League title.
More recently, Lazar Marković was sent off in a Champions League tie against FC Basel in the final group stage game at Anfield. A game which was a must win tie for the English club didn’t go according to plan as Liverpool conceded in the first half. Brendan Rodgers sent on Marković at half time to change things around which he definitely did, both positively and negatively. After looking dynamic and fresh for 15 minutes, he displayed a moment of rashness when he raised his arm and connected with Basel defender Behrang Safari. Marković, being a yard away from the Swiss defender, connected with his face and was shown a straight red card. Not surprisingly, Rodgers shared the blame of his team’s wastefulness with the referee, terming the decision as awful. Liverpool scored in the dying minutes of the game off a Steven Gerrard freekick but were wasteful in open play. Instead of accepting that they were just not good enough, Rodgers shared the blame with the referee.
These are some of the many instances which tarnish ‘The Beautiful Game’ . The referees are there to officiate and not to be made a scapegoat. They do not have the luxuries to consult anyone or watch a replay to decide. Neither do they have the luxuries to comment on their decisions after the game. Managers and players can still comment on their decisions but referees can’t afford that. Football Associations should give them the freedom to explain their decisions and thus protect them of the wide criticism and abuse they get week in week out. We can always have a clean error free game by bringing in technology but then there won’t be any pre/post match analysis of the game or of the decisions. There won’t be any criticism or praise for the match officials. Maybe, there won’t be any need for them. The technology is definitely there which can aid the officials but ‘The Beautiful Game’ would be more boring than beautiful then. The recent Nike advert which had perfect clones playing football instead of humans should be a decent example for that.