Friday, 16 September 2016

The best look for referees - just a little bit psycho

Game 15, 2016-17

I went for a haircut before last night's game. That might sound irrelevant, but the two events were connected on some level. I like my hair cut short, and it's been hard to find a barber's shop in this city willing to do that. They always try and talk me out of it, and when I insist, they just ignore me and finish up presenting my greying strands to me the way that they think is best. I smile, leave and look for another barber.

Unbalanced? Moi?
Yesterday I found my perfect salon - they listened, and cut my hair short. "We've had this business for 48 years, do you think we're not going to pay attention to the customer?" the barber asked me after I'd explained my dilemma. "I'll be back," I promised as I paid. And looking in the mirror, I felt ready to referee. It's not that my short haircut makes me look psycho, it's just that... well, maybe there's a Hint of Psycho. A suggestion that, under certain circumstances, I might be pushed over the edge. Beware The Unhinged Arbitrator - he's got a touch of the Collinas.

So, another men's third round Cup tie. I talk to the coaches before the game, because the away team plays higher up the pyramid in a league where they actually have assistant referees. "Remember, I have no linesmen," I say. "Please tell your players not to bother shouting about my offside decisions. Last night I showed three cards, all to players moaning about offside. I'm not going to change my mind just because they moan or yell at me, but I promise you that I will show them cards."

They nod - coaches are always very understanding people before the match. It's a pacey, hectic
encounter on a cinder pitch under floodlights and a full moon, tabbed as the last balmy night of a long, sweaty summer. It's not dirty, and the players play, though there are a lot of high balls. I'm right in line to cancel out an offside goal for the away team - when they see where I'm standing, they don't complain.

As the game goes on, though, they continue not complaining. The away team scores just after half-time, and the defence calls for offside. Again, I'm right in line and see that the final pass was played backwards. Then there's just a mild protest over a penalty call which the home team claims was outside the box - they point to the scratch lines in the cinder, which stretch from just outside the penalty area to three yards in. That is, from where the overstretched defender started pulling the shirt of the fleet-toed winger, all the way to where he was finally able to bring him down.

"That was an easy game for you," says the club treasurer as he counts out my wages (doesn't take him long). Well, it depends which way you look at it. A few years ago, an assessor said the game he'd just watched me ref wouldn't count because it was "too easy". Maybe, I counter-suggested, it was me that made it easy. A few days later he sent me an email saying that he agreed, I'd kept the game well under control, and so it should count after all.

So I feel like saying to the club treasurer that it's difficult to say what comes first. Was the game "easy" to ref because the players were so totally focused on the match and played in a sporting manner? Or was it because the absolutely fucking impeccable referee made the right decisions and the players had nothing to moan about?

Or maybe they looked at my new haircut and decided that I looked just a little bit psycho.

Final score: 0-3 (and no cards for the fourth game this season - it's catching).

You can support this blog by buying Ian Plenderleith's latest book, The Quiet Fanhere.

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