Of Referees and Men: How Much Time Does Manchester United Need to Win a Game?
Last Sunday two hugely important Premier League games were more or less decided by awful refereeing decisions. The most egregious came at Old Trafford, where after Manchester City had courageously fought back to equalize three times against their local rivals Manchester United- the last goal coming in the 90th minute - the ref inexplicably added on seven minutes of additional time to a match that had seen no long stoppages for injury and few delays. Replays later showed that after Bellamy’s late goal Sir Alex Ferguson had left his technical area to inform the fourth official that the game should proceed “until United score, Osama bin Laden is captured, or Scotland beat Brazil in a World Cup Final, whichever comes first.” Meanwhile over at Chateau Abramovich Tottenham dominated Chelski for twenty minutes, failed to capitalize on their superiority and went down 1-0. They equalized not long after, when Robbie Keane was hacked down in the area and scored from the resultant spot kick. Oh no, my mistake, they didn’t, because referee Howard Webb who last year actually apologized for erroneous decisions made during his crushingly biased adjudication of the Spurs v Man U. game at Old Trafford, decided that it might be fun to screw Spurs over one more time. O.K. Tottenham probably wouldn’t have won anyway after Ledley King and Bassong went off, but the point is that bad referees, like bad lieutenants, change the game.
What is to be done? as Lenin asked way back in 1901 following the refereeing decision that led to Kruzhok Liubiteley Sporta’s dubious 1-0 victory over Peterburgsky Kruzhok Sportsmenov. Although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, especially where Howard Webb is concerned, most people are convinced that referees are “only human.” Thus, when Graham Poll issued three yellow cards to the same player, Croatian defender Josip Simunic, during Croatia v Australia in World Cup 2006, a wave of sympathy rather than (or maybe “as well as” would be better) derision rolled over him.
But really, with World Cup 2010 fast approaching is it time to let technology transcend the “only human?” Everyone except Sir Alex Ferguson probably agrees that some version of the Hawkeye system used in tennis Grand Slam tournaments should be installed on goal-lines, but what about instant replays of action a la the NFL? These would, of course, slow the game down immeasurably and would it be worth going stop-start just to catch Maradona extending the hand of God or Drogba swan diving? High School girl’s soccer in the U.S.A. has begun patrolling the field with two refs, one in each half. This is awful-aesthetically, philosophically and politically- authority needs less not more visibility. Other solutions: refs who are not legally blind, refs who are born in wedlock, refs who have never been anywhere near Abramovich’s yacht. My solution would be to clone Pierluigi Collina, the great, graceful and impeccable recently retired Italian referee, before it is too late.
After West Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the 1990 World Cup Final Carlos Menem, then President of Argentina said of Uruguyan-Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal, a gynecologist by profession and a penalty freak: “He should go back to concentrating on medicine and not carry on causing damage to soccer.” A subtler rebuke to one of the men in black came from Ron Atkinson, manager of West Bromwich Albion in 1979. Albion went down to Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA cup competition after which Atkinson said: “I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat.” I offer these examples (supplied by the excellent Umbro Book of Football Quotations eds. Peter Ball and Phil Shaw) of the ancient sport of ref-baiting to demonstrate the heights of wit and inventiveness that refs can inspire. Best of all, of course, was the behavior of the mercurial Paul Gascoigne while he was playing for Rangers against Hibernian in 1995. The clumsy ref, Dougie Smith, dropped his little pack of cards. Gazza scooped up the yellow from the turf, adopted the position and “booked” Dougie. Smith, humorless arbitrator that he was, removed the card from Gazza’s hand and carded him right back. When gently prodded about his punitive action by one of the Hibs players Smith, according to The Guardian, replied: “He might be able to take the fucking piss out of you but he’s not going to take the fucking piss out of me.” Ah refs! Cant live with them…
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test
- 7 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 8 Henry Cavill to be Replaced by Stack of Pancakes in “Man of Steel” Sequel
- 9 Taco Bell Now Just Dumping Bags of Doritos Into Everything On Menu
- 10 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage