Archive for June 18th, 2010

A great performance by Ravshan Irmatov

A bad afternoon was followed by a wonderful evening for World Cup refereeing.

Referee Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan, Asian Referee of the Year in 2009, had a magnificent game in the crunch tie between England and Algeria.

He was in complete command of the match from start to finish and the interesting thing was his name was never mentioned throughout the commentary on UK television.

That is always the sign of a top referee performance.

His decisions were accurate, he did not over react and he was always in good position to give his decisions.

This was an object lesson on how to referee a major pressure match.

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It was not a good afternoon on Friday for the referees.

In the early kick off Spanish referee Alberto Undiano had a bad day at the office.

He never looked comfortable. He was nervous and at times inconsistent and this showed especially in his body language.

Matches at any World Cup need to be managed by top referees rather than controlled by the strict letter of the Law and I felt Undiano did not manage to do this.

An early caution for a serious offence is essential but, at this level, early cautions which may be technically correct are better dealt with by a word of warning. Early cautions for relatively minor offences can come back to cause problems, as happened when German striker Miroslav Klose was sent off for a second and correct caution.

All in all Undiano issued 9 yellow cards, two of them being given to Klose.

I was also surprised that no action was taken against the Serbian goal scorer, Dejan Stankovic, for his celebrations with the Serbian fans in the moat around the field.

Mali referee Koman Coulibaly had a baptism of fire in the match between Slovenia and USA. Within 10 seconds he had to deal with a mass confrontation after American midfielder Clint Dempsey elbowed Slovenian forward  Zlatan Ljubijankic.

Peace was restored and the match continued.

This was very much a match of two halves. In the first half Slovenia were much the better team and deserved their 2-0 half time lead.

In the second half USA took the initiative and some clever substitutions by USA coach Bob Bradley resulted in an early goal by Landon Donovan and an equaliser by Bradley’s son Michael after 82 minutes.

After that it was an excellent end to end match which eventually finished 2-2.

It was also a game of two halves for referee Koman Coulibaly.

He was in control in the first 45 minutes but in the second half he punished every offence, real or imaginary outside the penalty area but had a problem in taking the crucial decisions inside the penalty area.

A legitimate USA goal in the 86th minute by Maurice Edu was disallowed because he seemed to lack the courage to award what could have been the winning goal. Why he gave the free kick against USA when at least three Slovenian defenders were holding the USA players only he will know.

I think FIFA should have serious misgivings about appointing both referees for a second match.

They were far below the high standards set so far in the competition and, based on these performances, it would be a major risk to give them both another match in the knock out stages of the tournament.

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Red and yellow cards

The crime count is rising.

So far we have had 70 yellow cards in World Cup 2010, an average of 3.5 per match and six red cards, about 3 cards every 10 matches.

The highest crime count in a World Cup tournament was in 2006 when there were 345 yellow cards and 28 red cards over the 64 matches.

There were no yellow or red cards, however, in the 1966 World Cup in England for the very simple reason that they had not been introduced into football at that time.

But how did these coloured pieces of plastic come to be such an easily recognised and accepted part of the game?

Ken Aston was a FIFA referee and refereed in the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

He retired in 1963 and was appointed to the FIFA Referees’ Committee where was Chairman from 1970 until 1972.

In 1966, during the World Cup in England, he was in charge of the referees and became involved in a very controversial incident.

In the match between England and Argentina, Antonio Rattin, the Argentinian captain, was sent off by the German referee Rudi Kreitlein but refused to leave the field. Eventually Ken Aston came onto the field and persuaded him to leave.

After the same match there was also some doubt whether two England players, Jack and Bobby Charlton, had been cautioned.

This uncertainty set Ken thinking and the story goes that later, as he was driving through Kensington High Street in the west end of London, he came to a set of traffic lights. The lights changed from green to yellow and then to red. This was the answer –

 ‘Yellow is caution – take it easy – and red is stop – no more, you’re off.’

Red and yellow cards were introduced into the 1970 World Cup in Mexico and gradually were accepted throughout the world.

In 1993 the use of the red and yellow cards was introduced into the Laws of the Game.

Today we take their use for granted and being ‘shown the red card’ is a phrase used in many situations outside of football.

And all because of these traffic lights on Kensington High Street in 1966.

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Referees look for second appointments

When the referee for the opening match was announced the English media were dismissive that an Asian referee from Uzbekistan was chosen by FIFA.

‘Typical FIFA,’ they said. ‘Sometimes you just can’t understand their thinking.’

When he has an excellent match they were complimentary as they had to be.

They will get a chance to see the same referee at closer quarters on Friday in Cape Town when Ravshan Irmatov referees the crucial tie between England and Algeria.

Ravshan obviously impressed the FIFA Referees Committee in the opening match and is the first referee to be given a second appointment.

The allocation of referees to matches can be a real challenge at all levels of football but in the World Cup it is a very difficult task.

It is not normal for example to have a referee from the same confederation as one of the teams, although it is normal for a referee to referee a match between two teams from his confederation.

Howard Webb of England refereed the Spain v Switzerland match on Wednesday and Stephane Lannoy of France refereed Netherland v Denmark in Johannesburg two days earlier for example.

The appointment of the referee for the England v Algeria could not come therefore from Africa or from Europe and an Asian referee was an obvious choice.

Another consideration, of course, is whether the referee’s own country is in the tournament. This can limit the matches to which a referee can be appointed.

Another consideration is the experience of the referee. Theoretically all referees at the World Cup should be able to referee all matches but the reality is different. Referees are carefully selected for specific matches.

Having had a successful first match, Ravshan Irmatov was always going to be selected for his second match early in the competition even before Italian referee Roberto Rosetti had his first match – he will referee Ghana v Australia at Rustenburg on Saturday – and other referees who have performed well in their opening match will now be appointed for the highly important third match in each section.

Expect to see further appointments soon for highly experienced referees such as Howard Webb of England, Yuichi Nishimura of Japan Oscar Ruiz from Colombia and Masimmo Busacca of Switzerland.

The referee who is appointed to the Final Match will probably have refereed three matches before the Final.

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