Game 26, 2016-17
The away team's defender knows that he's going to get a yellow card, but he can't help himself. He claps in my general direction. His applause is not genuine. The number 6 is not actually appreciating my gifts as a referee. Despite having long since gone through puberty, he is conveying sarcasm.
|"I say, thank you for applauding |
my decision, young man."
It's not that he disagrees with my decision - it's a clear penalty that his team mate's just conceded with a blatant trip in the box, and no one's protesting. Rather, it's the post-script to an incident two minutes earlier when I'd failed to call offside for the home team's eighth goal. The away team had let it all out after that. Tired of yelling at each other after every defensive fuck-up, they went for me instead.
"Why can't you call it offside when they've already scored seven?" yells the central defender. That's an interesting idea, but there's no Mercy Rule in this league, and I can't see any committee passing the proposition that when one team leads by seven goals or more, every subsequent goal should be automatically judged as offside.
The goalkeeper is even more incensed, and runs 40 yards out of his area to bark at me. Before the
match, as we were lining up to come on to the pitch, I'd thrown him the match ball for a quick feel - I always do this to both goalkeepers. They squeeze it, nod, and then throw it back to me. One of his team-mates had said, "That's a waste of time - whatever ball we use, he won't stop it." They weren't joking. When he bellows at me, I tell him to calm down, and when he doesn't calm down he gets a yellow before his team-mates persuade him to let it drop.
The away team's entire back line was born between the years of 1967 and 1975. There's a special place for players like this called the Old Men's League. It kicks off on Saturday nights at 6pm, presumably so that they can go to bed straight afterwards. The distinguished gentlemen of this particular team, though, think they can still keep pace with boys in their teens and 20s. Then when they're constantly outpaced and outplayed their last resort is to turn around and shout "Offside!" at the referee.
|With maturity comes |
The Sarcastic Applause of the Number 6 denotes me getting the easy call right, because of course I'm only giving correct decisions against the away team. It's a little moment of satisfaction for the greying defender. A finger up at the pompous twat trying to pass himself off as a figure of authority. He's showing The Man that he doesn't give a shit that I've just blown the whistle and pointed to the spot, and that this will likely mean goal number nine scored past a keeper whose reflexes are no longer quite as sharp as they were 30 years ago.
When a player sarcastically applauds the referee and gets a yellow card, I know exactly what's going through his head. He's on a roll, and is seriously thinking about going for the disciplinary money shot and applauding the yellow card too, or at the very least making a comment. There's always that second when we're looking at each other and the unspoken message from me is, "Go on if you want to, because I don't give a shit whether you play on or stomp off to the shower swearing at the Gods."
They nearly always hold back and walk away. You could see that as a minor victory for the authority of the referee. I almost have more respect, though, for the ones that just show or tell me what they really think, and then don't even wait for their marching orders, they're gone. You're eight goals down and there's ten minutes to go, so what's the point anyway?
Maybe there should be a Mercy Rule in this league after all. Something along the lines of: if it's 8-1 and the old fellas are getting crabby, then blow up early and all go for a beer. For that decision, the applause would be real.
Final score: 10-2 (four yellow cards)