Having been involved in refereeing for longer than I care to remember both on and off the field, and knowing what the trials and tribulations of being a match official are, I am always reluctant to criticise the men in the middle.
I mention the male of the species and not the women because there doesn’t appear to be a problem on their side. You may remember some weeks back my mentioning the Nigerian woman ref who gave a penalty in the 92nd minute at the recent Afcon in Ghana. That is brave refereeing.
Over the festive season, I watched the highly anticipated Glasgow derby between the top teams, Scotland Rangers and Celtic. It was, as usual, a spicy, feisty affair, with neither side giving any quarter and expecting none in return.
My gripe is with the referee, John Beaton. He is an experienced match official and a wearer of the coveted Fifa badge. On this occasion, he did not cover himself in glory. To be selected for the Fifa list of international referees is not only an honour for yourself, it also acts as an inspiration to up-and-coming refs.
There were three particular incidents that, in my opinion, deserved red cards. Rangers striker and Colombian international Alfredo José Morelos Aviléz was involved in all three and was guilty of some very dangerous, unseemly and provocative behaviour.
The man who wears Morelos on his shirt seemed intent on pushing the ref to the limit, and did so. What’s more frustrating for me is that he got away with it.
Referee Beaton appeared uninterested or unaware of what this player was doing. Judging from camera angles, he had a clear view of each incident and did nothing. I quoted the saying a few weeks ago that “all that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”. Well, in a similar vein, that is what happened in this game.
I was reading during the week about one of the best coaches to hit South Africa’s shores. I am pleased to hear that he is still with us, albeit in advancing years. I am talking about the great Joe Frickleton. I remember his coming to one of our refereeing seminars and giving a talk. He said, in true Frickleton unambiguous language, that he knew every one of us referees. In fact, he even pointed towards us collectively and said he knew who would give him a penalty and who would not; who would give a red card and who not; who would overlook incidents and who not.
He said he had a dossier on each match official in the First Division (now the Premier League) and when he found out who was going to be handling his game (whichever team he was in charge of at the time), he would select his team accordingly.
Getting back to Señor Morelos: Of the three incidents, the most blatant was where he was challenging for the ball with a Celtic player. The ball went out for a throw-in. Morelos got to his feet first and, in trying to negotiate his way over the fallen Celtic player, he deliberately, and, in my opinion, consciously stamped on his opponent’s back.
The referee didn’t appear to see anything wrong and allowed play to continue.
This smacks of refereeing cowardice, and if the video assistant referee (VAR) system had been in operation for such offences, rather than the four that are currently covered, he would surely have received a straight red card – or would he? It amazes me that some match officials don’t have the guts or backbone to make the decisions that need to be made. I am always flabbergasted to see players clearly flouting the laws of the game and getting away with it.
I will end with another saying: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
If referees or their assistants are not prepared to make the tough decisions, they should take up some other, less strenuous activity because refereeing is not for them.
Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for reading.