What could have turned out to be one of the best football matches in the EPL in recent times was marred by incompetent refereeing by Mark Clattenburg. I couldn’t agree more with the view of Roberto Di Matteo that “It’s a shame the game has to be decided in that manner. We are massively disappointed that these key decisions were wrong. It always seems to be in favour of the opposition. It was a good game of football with two good teams and the officials ruined it”.
As I watched the referee issue two red cards in a space of five minutes to Chelsea when they were on the ascendancy and putting their opponents to the sword, I couldn’t help but remember the finals of the 2005 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Holland when Nigeria lost to Argentina due to dubious penalty awards which Messi put away. The same referee refused to give Nigeria a clear penalty when Obasi Ogbuke was bundled over by Pablo Zaballeta.
While the decision taken to send off Branislav Ivanovic could be excused based on the rules of the game, the referee should have at least looked across to his assistants to check if he should have sent Torres off, issue a yellow card to Johnny Evans or simply award a free kick to Chelsea. The speed of his decisions shows the bane of most English referees as they have this believe that they are better than their European counterparts in officiating. This is however not reflected in the number of referees from the English FA called up for FIFA and UEFA competitions. It is also on record that it was an English man, Graham Poll who dished out three yellow cards to a single player in a match and at the World Cup for that matter.
Sensible refereeing also demands restraint in big matches. This I must quickly add was demonstrated by another English man, Howard Webb when he decided not to send off Nigel De’ Jong for a flying kick on Xabi Alonso during the World Cup final in South Africa. Had he done that, the match would simply have been ‘destroyed’ with negative emotions.
It is true that rules are rules and must be enforced but it must also be noted that such enforcement must be fair and equitable. This is the only way our beloved game could continue progressing without witnessing the kinds of ugly scenes that we saw in the past due to poor officiating.
Referees must also recognize the fact that the assistants are there to help them make better decisions. Where there’s any iota of doubt, a good umpire must be humble enough to take a cue from his assistants. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been any need for the assistants in the first place had the referee all the powers and abilities to see everything going on in the field. On this platform Mark Clattenburg failed woefully.