After the completion of two Champions League semi-finals which were not the amazing footballing battles we had hoped for it seems both games will be remembered for decisions taken by the officials trying their best to do a job under incredible pressure.
Darren Fletcher looks set to miss the final in Rome after he was deemed to have fouled Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates and whilst we have all seen the incident in question a million times in slow motion and can clearly see it wasn’t a deserved red card you have to feel as equally sorry for Roberto Rosetti, the Italian in charge of the United-Arsenal game, as you do for the Scottish international who was wrongfully punished.
In many ways it’s a job that no one in their right mind would choose to do. It is very rare indeed for the referee or his assistants to ever receive praise for their efforts and it seems a game doesn’t pass now without a barrage of abuse being leveled from the stands and the dugouts and then afterwards they get pilloried by the press.
Take the Chelsea game last night. The amount of abuse Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to was just astounding, the like of which i have never seen before in my life and then take into account that of the five or six penalty claims the west London club appealed for i actually think none of them are actually bad decisions and that his worst decision of the night actually benefited the Stamford Bridge outfit, when he sent off Abidal, and it all adds up to an appalling disgrace that i sincerely hope the club is punished for.
So is the standard slipping? No i don’t think so. If anything i think the refereeing at the top level has got massively better but the way you see these preening millionaires conducting themselves you would have thought that things have got to an all time low when it comes to referees and linesmen.
It has now got to the stage where referees must be hoping that television evidence is used during the game so as to take some of the flak away from them. It does seem that its only a matter of time until video replays are used for goal line decisions and then it seems likely this will be used for other offences and if this does occur i think it will be a big shame. In many ways the questionable decisions and the unpredictable nature of the game that results from them are part and parcel of what makes the game so addictive and a joy to watch.
In some ways though referees can help themselves out. I think they should be encouraged to always give a post match interview where they can put out their side of the case and even if it is to admit making a mistake that would go a long way to showing that they are human and not beyond reproach.
I guess you could say that yesterday’s actions of the likes of Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba are just a sign of the direction the game is going in and that the growing gap between the superstars and reality is to blame but that would really be too easy and would let them get off lightly.
Something needs to be done and managers can help build the bridge between players and officials. For instance think of Alan Shearer’s reaction to Joey Barton’s dismissal and the offside nature of Liverpool’s first goal against Newcastle on the weekend. The Toon Army boss said it like it was by stating that a) Barton deserved to go (something managers rarely say about their own players) and that whilst the first goal was probably offside it didn’t matter as the club would have lost anyway (again something manager’s wouldn’t normally say and again a statement that defuses the situation).
Players can also help themselves and in turn help the officials. For instance they can stop diving (not meant as a pop at Didier) and they can stop gesturing to get fellow players booked and they can stop claiming that a decision should go there way i.e. appealing for a corner or throw in when it is clearly not the case. Is it any wonder that mistakes are made when you are constantly being conned by players. I would hasten to add that abuse of officials from the crowd is another matter and something that is a perfectly acceptable thing to do (within reason of course) and is a totally different thing to players on the pitch doing so.
I guess the most important thing to remember is that Referees are only human….well in most cases anyway.