When I was 14 years old we had a football tournament it my school. It was nothing huge. Just a bunch of kids on more or less random teams teams kicking a ball about. But to me it was important. I loved football just as I do now, but in the days before I got to love girls, beer, and heavy metal, football was my all consuming passion and hobby.
The referee of the day was a teacher of mine. She had no clue about football, but just wanted us kids to enjoy ourself. At a point I got the ball, ran past an opponent, and lopped the ball over the keeper with my left foot. It was at least one level better than anything I would normally hope to do, and I was ecstatic. My left foot?! I can merely control it enough to walk on it. I turned around, running, smiling, and just about to brag – just a little. The goal was disallowed.
The teacher had seen some kind of infringement. It wasn’t there. I was livid. I accused her of destroying the game with her ignorance. I told her she was a moron. I told her to find a person with even the slightest knowledge of the rules, before embarking on her crusade to make a 14-year old boy’s day miserable. After an Antonio Cassano-esque tantrum I ran away and refused to speak to anyone. The point is, that I was a 14 years old boy, and even a quite childish one of the breed. Most football fans and all Serie A presidents are grown up men, and yet they still behave like I did that day in 1994.
Serie A refs are a sturdy species. Week in and week out that are ridiculed and lambasted by a flock of people, who know a lot about football, but who would stand no chance doing half as well as the refs were they given the possibility themselves. That both fans and presidents behave like brats when even minor refereeing errors go against their team is embarrassing. How is it that those people don’t know that refereeing mistakes are a part of football and have been so since the birth of the game?
In Italy it seems like a part of the sport to mock the refs – as if that in itself would better the quality of their calls. If anything it worsens them by making the refs nervous. Asked in another way. Who of you would take a job where you’re payed a laughable fraction of the wage of the people you’re helping doing their job, all while being taunted by thousands of people week after week. I know I wouldn’t. Let’s not forget that the refs help the football take place. I’m sure most people would agree that football with non-perfect law enforcing is better than football with perfect law non-enforcing.
Week in and week out people all over the media and all over Twitter run rampant with ref-hate. Week in and week out club presidents and managers pick up sorry excuses from refereeing calls that weren’t a 100% clear. How on earth is a ref supposed to judge something in real time when it’s hard to judge in slow motion? Until we get goal line technology (it’s a joke that we haven’t got there yet) or actual TV evidence, then we need to accept the fact that refs make mistakes, just as we do when we do our work.
I’m a historian, and if I believed in God I would thank him that I don’t have to explain the finer nuances of Dutch Maritime Cartography in the Renaissance (coincidentally one of my specialties) or date an weird artifact within a time frame way shorter than it takes to read this one sentence. That is what we ask our refs to do. And then we hate them when they get some details wrong. People under the age of 15 can be excused. The rest of us cannot. We need to grow up.
Photo by Kate_Lokteva