Thursday, 2 March 2017

A referee's rational response to criticism

Games 36-38, 2016-17

More cards than the
Queen's bloody birthday
City Cup, semi-final - what's at stake? The City Cup winner goes into next season's State Cup, and the winner of the State Cup goes into the first round of this country's FA Cup. Win that, and you're in the Europa League. Win the Europa League and... well, let's say that tonight I'm reffing two potential Champions League participants. Though probably not.

What I'm reffing tonight are two quick but very physical teams. I raise the yellow card so often that my left arm's soon aching like a castaway's knob. At the end of 90 minutes, the central defender of the losing team shakes my hand, then kindly adds, "I haven't seen such a bad referee for a long, long time."

It's understandable that he's disappointed after narrowly missing out on making it to the final. So in response I'd just like to say - though I didn't at the time, because I can be courteous if I clamp my tongue between my teeth until it bleeds all over my gums - I haven't seen such bad defending against a team almost at the bottom of the league below you for such a long time, Mr Bitter-Grape Sucking, Sneaky-Foul Addicted, Like-A-Child-Losing, Twatty Number 5. Mr. Beaten-In-The-Air-By-A-Winger-A-Foot-Shorter-Than-You-For-The-Winning-Goal, Mardy-Faced Number 5 Wanker.

If I seem a bit sensitive to criticism, it's because there is really just one mildly contentious incident all night. Number 5 and his central defending partner are the biggest moaners about it, mainly because they get burned. To spare you too much detail, an attacker in an offside position, after initially making a move towards the ball, stops short and stands passively, allowing instead a team-mate to run on to a through ball from an onside position, from where he scores a cracking goal to make the score 2-2. The defending team claims that the passive attacker was actively involved in play, although he did not distract any defenders - they weren't close enough. 

Deficient defending's last appeal -
OFFSIDE! (pic: Groundhoppers)
The terrible referee, though, allows the goal to stand. It's  a lovely finish, and a football world where goals like that are cancelled out - because another forward looked for half a second as though he was going to run after the ball but then changed his mind - is not one where I want to watch, play, coach or officiate. Suck it up and stop making the ref a scapegoat for your shite positioning.

In a game this intense, though, there will always be a few players who'll find something to grind their chops about. "Handball!" screams one player in my ear after an opponent briefly handles, but with no intent. "Calm down," I tell him, so he looks at me and screams "Handball!" even louder. Like his sole instruction when he came off the bench a few minutes earlier had been, "Never mind winning the game, make sure you get a yellow card by yelling at the fucking ref."

The decisive goal from a glancing header comes ten minutes from time, and the 80 or so home fans celebrate their unlikely progress into the final. On the way they've beaten four teams from higher leagues. The home players are less critical of my performance than the opposition's number 5, needless to say, and are doubtless cheerful at the prospect of Europa League football a few years down the line. An online match report mentions the flurry of second half yellows, but neither the journalist nor the two coaches cite any refereeing influence on the outcome. For me, that's the best possible result.

Final score: 3-2 (nine yellow cards)
Game 36: 4-0 (no cards)
Game 37: 7-0 (one red, two yellow cards)

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