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United players disrespectful to refs

If ever there was an example of classic DISRESPECT for match officials (referees and their assistants) it was surely in the recent Uefa Champions League game between Manchester United and Real Madrid at Old Trafford.

The appalling scenes at the end of this very high profile, and in some ways very contentious, game left an awful lot to be desired.

Jose Mourinho, the Real coach, was quoted as saying before kick-off that the whole world was stopping to watch this game. Slight exaggeration I know but we know what he meant.

The match officials and, in particular, the referee Cunyet Cahir from Turkey were subjected to all kinds of verbal abuse and the ultimate in sarcasm from United defender Rio Ferdinand, who quite literally and without apology clapped his hands in the face of the hapless official to show his displeasure at the sending off of his teammate NANI.

This kind of behaviour can lead to riots.

This kind of behaviour is disgusting and should be condemned by all soccer loving people from whatever quarter.

This kind of behaviour can get people killed.

While one can understand the frustration and disappointment at losing a game, let alone a Champions League game, the need for restraint and composure is paramount.

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Only last year an assistant referee in Holland was kicked to death by players who vented their anger on him because of decisions he had awarded against their team in a lower league game.

Then, a few years ago, we had the resignation of the Swedish top five referee in Europe, Anders Frisk, who quit because of death threats against him and his family by certain sections of Chelsea supporters.

I also have personal experience of death threats and actual assault while performing my duties in the middle and believe me it’s no joke

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The RESPECT programme rolled out by current Uefa president Michel Platini, where players shake hands with each other and the match officials before the game, is surely not working and last night that proved to be the case

I’ve been campaigning against this hand shake business since its inception because:

  • I believe it’s a waste of time.
  • I believe it should be abolished forthwith.
  • I believe it’s hypocritical.

This was never going to be an easy game to handle. The amount of hype built up by the electronic and print media was, at times, overwhelming.

For the neutral supporter it was great.

For fans of each team the expectations were so high that failure was not an option.

For the referee and his assistants they were on a hiding to nothing.

The tension in the air was palpable but at the end of the day one team has to lose.

Everyone looks for a “whipping boy” and invariably that will be the referee or his assistants. Their frustrations have to be taken out on someone, so why not the referee? Referees are always an easy target (now I must temper my own sarcasm).

No doubt the calls for more technology will grow louder but remember referees don’t have that luxury. They don’t have slow motion action replays either and until then they will have to rely on their gut instincts and do what is a very unthankful, low paid job and for that we have to be very grateful.

Have we lost all human respect and decency?

Have we stooped so low that we will indulge in degrading and despicable acts to get our point across?

Is this what we are teaching our children, who watch their idols behaving like thugs and louts and will inevitably emulate them at the first given opportunity?

Heaven help us and our beloved sport.

Happy Whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
twitter: @dr_errol

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