Today as I turned the pages of the TOI while sitting on “my throne” with a cigarette in one hand, I happened to glance through the article “Booking Office” on the sport’s section about yesterday’s USA-Italy match. It really caught my attention and after I read the entire article, all I could think of was, who the hell is the correspondent who wrote this article? The credit to that article went to “AGENCIES”. Sometimes freelancers or people not affiliated to any News group would write a review and submit it to the tabloids.
Those of you who saw the match thriller would obviously know that there were 3 red cards handed out during that particular game. And any regular viewer of football will know that FIFA is now stricter than before due to the increasing number of fouls committed during a match. If players lunge themselves dangerously at an opponent and crash at them with no contact on the ball, the referee has the full divine authority to show that player a direct red card.
Yet this writer blasted the referee for “reducing the game to a farce” and that “there was an impression the Uruguayan has lost control”. Bullshit. Referees hand out red cards whenever it is necessary and according to Jorge Larrionada the innocent “victim” of this bloodthirsty (or fame thirsty?) writer, it just so happened to be necessary three times last night (out of which one red was only a result of two yellows). The writer sounds like an amateur football reviewer or wannabe expert or somebody who watched the match with his friends and wrote whatever his intoxicated football crazy friends were blabbering about.
“Although the absence of the three players accidentally created a thrilling spectacle, soccer is all about skillfully creating those chances. It’s not about desperate attempts to hoist balls upfield for tired forwards to chase against exhausted defenders.”
“If he has given verbal warnings to the players earlier in the game before he started flashing his red and yellow cards, its likely the fouls that followed wouldn’t have happened.
“Mastroeni was given a straight red for sliding into the ankles of Andrea Pirlo, the sort of challenge that usually gets a caution. Pope received two yellows, either of which would have been avoided with an early warning.
Yeah maybe you can voice your displeasure on the referee for being strict because after all, your article seem to have a biased leaning, but criticizing the referee and saying that all the fouls could have been avoided had they been verbally warned earlier, just seemed to pass on a message to TOI readers on how much you really know about the game of football.
I was cheering for Italy initially because somehow, I just don’t support the Americans when it comes to football as the game is not very popular there compared to other sports, and that I believe a Country totally committed to football should be the deserving winner. But all that changed when De Rossi gave that elbow to McBride. Bastard! Such a distasteful sportsmanship. McBride, all bloodied and dazed, had to undergo three stitches and De Rossi was given a straight marching order to the locker room. After that incident, somehow, something in me just couldn’t cheer for the Italians anymore. It was indeed a shameful skulduggery and I would have stopped my subscription to TOI immediately had the “Agency” writer also said that that too deserved to get a freaking verbal warning. But fortunately he/she didn’t complain much about that particular decision. Phew.
When I used to play for school level basketball, we were taught how to treat the referees with utmost respect. We were also taught that referees make mistakes, and that we should accept any decisions they make. I learnt it the hard way when I protested vehemently for a wrong call and as a result got a technical foul. I protested even further and I was ejected from the game. Then came the college level basketball era. Referees transformed from the God like stature to people you would invite for a tea and chit-chat with. They became your equals, a friend who would give you tips on what’s wrong with your fade-away shot or turn around cross over dribble. Soon I got promoted to University District level, State level and finally National level. I even played a match with Sri Lanka’s Mercantile BB Club. In the National level, I locked horns with the big guns like India Bank, Punjab Police, IOB, Railways, Custom & Excise, ICF etc. During my brief stint with the Pros, what I noticed was that, these professional players hardly treat the referees with respect. Some of them would even abuse a referee for a wrong call and still get away with it!!!
So the gist of this whole post is simple. As players become more and more acclaimed, recognized, salary hiked and sometimes snooty, they sometimes tend to treat the referees with disrespect. After all there is a huge gap between their respective fame and salary package. And players will always protest a referee’s wrong call even though his decision is final and there’s no way he’s going to change that. And the players know that very well too. But still they protest. They protest not because of disrespect but rather because it is of human nature to do that. And referees have to live through all that protest from the millionaires around them and stick to their decision. I don’t think this Agency writer have any idea how tough it is to officiate a game and how much of a fitness training and endurance work-out these referees have to undergo inorder to officiate a World Cup match. Most of the defenders run till the half line, midfielders stay between the two D’s and strikers dash from half-line to the opponent’s area, while these referees have to run from one end of the field to the other the whole time, with no substitution. And in the process, they may have made some wrong judgments. Fine, you can show your displeasure, but you don’t have to crucify him for that!
I know, sometimes it’s really hard not to criticize a referee for blowing his whistle unfairly against the team you’re cheering for. I still remember how pissed off I was when Lehman was shown the red card at the UEFA Finals even though a part of me was telling me he deserved that. But to write a review about a match for a Newspaper or News website that everybody reads, one has to be completely unbiased and look at the whole issue with a very neutral perspective. That is what makes a good sports columnist.