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Ref headbutts player

When I saw the pictures of this incident for the first time I thought it was an optical illusion. I thought someone has been playing around with a video and was having a laugh.

But it is no laughing matter. It actually happened and I’m still flabbergasted that it did.

The game was a Fifa friendly between South Africa and Angola in East London, South Africa on Tuesday, 28 March.

The referee was Joshua Bondo from Botswana who is a fully accredited Fifa middleman.

Trying to get into the referees mind on this matter is a challenge all on its own.

The obvious questions:

  • What was he (the ref) thinking?
  • Did he not see the player in front of him? If not, why not?
  • Why didn’t he try to avoid contact with the player who was right in his line of vision?

There are many questions that need to be answered and I’m sure they will be in the fullness of time.

In the meantime, the referee will need to be interviewed by the match commissioner on the night, who was Katongo Kubongo from Zambia. He will forward his report to the relevant authorities who will then sit in judgement and pass down any form of disciplinary measures deemed necessary.

Secondly, and in light of the results of such an interview, the referee’s future as an international official, or indeed at local level, will be determined.

It’s important at this stage not to pre-judge the outcome of such an enquiry. Suffice to say that he (the ref) should be “stood down” from all games while the investigation is carried out.

An extraordinary incident, to say the least and one which I hope will never be replicated.


Meanwhile, the much-talked-about Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system was trialled again last night in the Fifa friendly between France and Spain in Paris.

The issues that could be reviewed were:

  • Goals
  • Penalty decisions
  • Red card incidents
  • Mistaken identity

And would you believe it, right on cue it happened, not once, but twice in the same game and both involving goals scored. One allowed and one disallowed.

German referee Felix Swayer was called upon to use the VAR system after doubts arose about the first “goal” for France.

Antoine Griezman thought he had headed France into the lead three minutes into the second half but after the referee consulted the extra official, the goal was quickly ruled out for offside – the correct decision.

The system was again used when Ferard Deulofeu, who was initially flagged offside, was ruled to have scored Spain’s second after a short delay to get confirmation. Again the correct decision.

So the VAR was used for both purposes – one to confirm an offside when a goal was scored and awarded, and the second to prove that a player, who was initially flagged offside was, in fact, on side.

The French manager Didier Deschamps said he had no problem with the use of technology. He said, today it went against us but so long as it’s fair and justice is done then that is how it will be.

I was counting the seconds to see how long it took to review both incidents. One only took about 30 seconds. Surely that’s not too long to ensure that the correct decision is arrived at.

I also noticed that there was little or no protest from players and that is surely a big plus for the referees who will not longer have to endure players surrounding them like packs of wolves baying for blood.

Big thumbs up for Fifa.

Happy whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter: @dr_errol

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