Being a referee is no mean job. There’s pressure from the players, from the administrators, from the managers and moreover, from the fans. Referees have to run almost twice as much as the players themselves, and still, they have no luxury of committing an odd howler because that just means media breathing down their necks.
It’s quite okay to commit mistakes: to err is human, and everything granted. However, there are certain moments when ‘mistake’ appears to be too lenient a word to describe some calls that referees make on the field.
Here’s our selection of five of the worst referee calls in soccer.
1. Tragedy thy name be Lampard
Frank Lampard, even after being a prolific goal scorer at the club level, has somehow been at the receiving end of the long stick we call ‘fortune’. During a high-voltage World Cup game against Germany, his brilliant pile driver thudded against the top bar, only to bounce out – but not before having landed comfortably past the goal line. Fans saw that in the replays. Players saw it too. But the one whose voice matters – referee – didn’t think it important enough to see and he disallowed the goal.
Needless to say, England couldn’t win that game.
2. Can you count, Graham Poll?
In the same World Cup, Graham Poll – an experienced soccer referee – apparently thought that it’s not necessary to count when an entertaining and fractious game is being played on the field.
The famed referee went on to show the yellow card to Josip Simunic – one of the most experienced and players in Croatian football – THREE times!
3. The House of Cards
Let’s turn the clock back four years to the World Cup game between Holland and Portugal.
Another experienced referee, Valentin Ivanov from Russia, decided to turn the field into a positive house of cards – brandishing 16 cards in total during the full game time.
This has already set a dubious record that prompted the then FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter to suggest that the referee himself should be shown a yellow card.
4. Isn’t this a CONTACT sport?
Going further back in time, there are some true gems of gaffes made by referees on the field.
One such gaffe that left the referee embarrassed to the hilt was in the 1988 FA Ireland Final between Dundalk FC and Derry City. In the spirit of the final, the game was pretty competitive but the referee had different ideas. He decided to pull up Martin Bayly of Derry City and award a penalty to Dundalk FC, for what seemed to be a mere touch, not even a push.
The penalty was taken successfully and the game ended in a 1-0 victory for Dundalk.
5. When I say it’s a foul, it IS a foul!
Manchester Derby is a place to be if you love football. The game itself may not always be of the highest standard, but rarely does a match between these rivals fail to make headlines.
During such a routine league clash in 1996, when everything appeared to be going smoothly, the referee decided to award a penalty to Manchester United. The reason, for City fans, is still not clear after almost two decades.