Friday, 12 August 2016

"Advantage!" When referees feel like they've scored a goal

Game 5, 2016-17

Taking advantage and running
with it (image: styleanderror.co.uk)
Occasionally, a referee may experience his or her moment of glory. It's not like scoring a goal, but it's similar. And no, it's not when you - straight-armed and righteous - raise the red card to that purple-faced midfield goblin who just called you a blind, clueless twat. It's when you cry the words, "Play on! Advantage!" and just a few seconds later the attacking team sticks the ball in the net.

It happens last night just over an hour into a closely fought and very well played game between the first team of a small town and the reserve team of a neighbouring, much bigger town. The score is 1-1. The home team's number 7 - a hot-headed but extremely nimble central midfielder - has been sandwiched by two opponents just inside the away team's half. As he falls and howls for the foul, the ball squirts forward to one of his team-mates, who with a first time pass puts their number 11 through on goal. The whole time I have my arms stretched out and am exhorting them to play on. The number 11 needs only two touches to shoot the ball into the corner of the goal from just inside the penalty area.

In such moments, you remember what it was like to score a goal. In the interests of neutrality, it's
best not to scream out "Yes!" and punch the air. Or to run over and join in the goal celebrations. But that's exactly what you feel like doing. And for the next few minutes I have that pleasant 'after-goal' sensation I used to feel after a successful strike, at the same time as having to keep myself in check and return to fully concentrating on the game.

Still, fucking excellent call, ref! Says exactly no one. Not during the game, and not after the game. Three minutes before time, with the score now at 4-1, I miss a handball by the away team thanks to the glare of the floodlights. It's a very obvious handball judging by the incredulous cries of the 40-odd spectators and the querulous yells of the home team. When the home manager shakes my hand after the game he says, "That was a clear handball, you know."

Yeah, I know. Didn't matter much by then, though, did it? Main thing was my application of that critical advantage call, right? Forget it, you idiot, that was half an hour ago. They'll only remember you here as the ref who needs night-vision glasses. If it's gratitude you want, go into the alms industry.

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