Handball hassles highlight ref heckling
I was intrigued by the controversy generated by my appearance on SuperSport's "Extra Time" with Robert Marawa recently. I thought the issue of whether it is a hand ball or not by a player was clear - obviously not.
I'm a firm believer in quoting form the referees "bible", which is called the Laws of the Game. That way no one can argue. Let me quote you what it says on this issue:
"Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration:
- the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
- the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
- the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
- touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard etc.) counts as an infringement
- hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard etc) counts as an infringement."
The first of the above explanations is the one most pertinent to this discussion, "the movement of the hand towards the ball."
On the show there were three or four incidents where it was quite obvious that "the movement of the hand towards the ball" did not apply. In fact the players concerned tried desperately to get their hand AWAY and that was very obvious.
In one particular game (Bloemfontein Celtic v Kaizer Chiefs) the home team claimed to have been denied two penalties for such "infringements."
What disturbed me even more were the ill-advised comments by the coach of Celtic when he said "the less said about the referee the better”. I took this as a clear and unambiguous statement that he was not happy with the referee on the day and I'm being mild in my response.
Such comments can, and have in the past, led to referees being verbally and physically abused and molested. I know - I was one of them.
In my opinion the referee got the interpretation spot on.
There was another issue where the referee gave a free kick outside the penalty area when it appeared that it should have been inside.
This was a border line case and before you start hanging the match officials out to dry let's get one thing straight.
They (the refs) don't have the luxury of slow motion action replays from several different angles like your arm chair refs do sitting at home in the comfort of their living room.
How easy it is to criticise from that point of view.
The referees don't have the facility to go and watch the incident on a monitor at the side of the pitch to make a final call. Fifa won't allow it.
They get one chance and in that split second they make a decision based on what they see. It's not easy, believe me. I was there and you do what you think is correct at the time based on what you see before you.
I've long said that we should be called reactionaries because that's what we do - we react to a situation and base our judgement on what we see in front of us.
I also feel that the need for professional referees is long overdue. Professional players train every day. Today's referees hold down a daytime job and are expected to give professional performances from an amateur standpoint.
This situation has to change and the sooner the better for all concerned, but more about professional referees in future blogs
Dr Errol Sweeney
World Cup Referee Coach and Mentor