Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Greatest Referee Blunders

Greatest Referee Blunders.
Greatest Refereeing Blunders

In an era in which it is possible to measure time and space down to one millionth of a second or an inch, why wouldn't some of the same technology be exploited to make soccer a bit more scientific? At least when the scoring of goals is concerned? Surely it cannot be in FIFA's interest to see, year in and year out, blatant mistakes on the part of referees. Ozren Podnar reports with on some of the biggest refereeing blunders in soccer history.

A goal a second too late

Brazil 1-1 Sweden (WC 1978)

Welsh ref Clive Thomas allowed Brazil to take a corner in injury time. Two seconds later, Zico jumped to the crossed ball and headed it home. Amazingly, Thomas disallowed the goal, considering that the time had elapsed precisely while the ball traveled from the corner spot into the penalty area. The Brazilians asked Thomas why on earth he allowed the corner to be taken if he did not plan to accept the consequence of the corner--i.e., a goal, should it be scored. The Welshman did not understand this logic. The world did not understand Thomas, and fails to do so to this day. Still, Brazil progressed and ended up finishing third.

Recently, a Spanish referee made the same mistake at the expense of Dinamo Bucharest at Marseille in the UEFA Cup. Something should be done with referees like that.

Forza Juve

Juventus 0-0 Roma (Serie A 1981)

Roma had to win with two matches to go in order to overtake Juve on top. In the second half, Roma's defender Ramon Turone scored with a marvelous header. Referee Bergamo saw the linesman's flag, and disallowed the goal on account of offsides. Slow motion proved there was not a hint of offsides, active or passive. It stayed 0-0 and Juventus went on to win the umpteenth title. For Roma's fans, it was evidence that the Old Lady is indeed a privileged elderly woman.

A year later, it was Fiorentina's turn to protest as Francesco Graziani's goal in the last match day at Cagliari was annulled for no observable reason. Again, Juventus won the title for the umpteenth time, and Fiorentina's fans were left to sing "meglio secondi che ladri" (better second placed than thieves).

Scandalous Schumacher

France 3-3 Germany (4-5 pen; WC 1982)

With 1-1 on the scoreboard, Michel Platini launched a pinpoint pass to Patrick Battiston, who sped alone towards the German goal defended by Harald Schumacher. The keeper did not deign to look at the ball, but instead aimed an elbow and a knee at the Frenchman's body. It took several minutes for the Dutch ref Charles Corver to allow the medics to stretcher off an unconscious, severely injured Battiston. Then, the Dutchman calmly awarded - a goal kick to the Germans!! No red card, no penalty, no nothing. Amazingly, FIFA followed suit, failing to ban Schumacher and Corver for years, perhaps for life.

The eventual German win on penalties turned out to be one of the most unfair outcomes of a soccer game.

Guruceta took the money

Anderlecht 3-0 Nottingham (UEFA Cup 1984)

The Belgians had leveled the aggregate score when they went 2-0 up and needed another goal to go through to the finals. They achieved that in 89th minute when the Spaniard Guruceta Muro awarded a suspect penalty, converted by Van den Bergh. But, the disaster struck a minute later, when Ian Wallace scored a perfectly legal goal to make it 3-1, which would have taken Forest to the finals to face the Spurs. But, Muro annulled the goal for reasons known only to him...and to Anderlecht's directors.

Only 13 years later did an Anderlecht's director admit that Muro had been paid a million Belgian francs to help their team go through. Muro was never punished, not in this world anyhow, because he had already died. UEFA considered banning Anderlecht for a year, but then realized the 10-year statute of limitations for such punishment had already expired.

A Miracle at Bernabeu

Real Madrid 3-0 Rijeka (UEFA Cup 1985)

The Croats from Rijeka stunned Real by 3-1 at home in the then Yugoslav port city, but two weeks later they faced a far more formidable opponent: the extraordinary Belgian referee Schoeters. Real were no pushover; Juanito pulled one back from a less-than-clear penalty in the 67th minute with Rijeka down to 10 men. In the next 10 minutes, two more visiting players were sent off, most notably Desnica. The Croatian winger received the first yellow card because he did not stop play after Schoeters blew his whistle; the second ensued because the Croat, allegedly, insulted the referee. However, unbeknownst to the ref, Damir Desnica had been deaf and dumb since birth.

With Rijeka reduced to eight players, Real scored two more goals, went on to the third round and eventually won the trophy. Schoeters was never punished, but the anti-Madrid press spoke of the "miracle of Bernabeu". Where else could a dumb man talk if not at soccer's greatest shrine, Real Madrid's stadium.

Maradona's shame

Argentina 2-1 England (WC 1986)

The Mother of all blunders. Diego Maradona became a sporting antihero by scoring a goal with a handball in the quarterfinals of the WC 1986 in Mexico. The supremely talented but short Maradona scored few goals in the air, and once in a while he had to lend himself a hand. The 168 cm tall (so to speak) Argentine jumped ahead of Peter Shilton and fisted the ball over the keeper's head into the English net. Without considering the physical impossibility of Maradona's out jumping the great English keeper, the Tunisian Ali Bennaceur actually believed the ball was touched by the little man’s head.

A few minutes later, Maradona doubled the lead with a truly magnificent goal before Lineker made it 2-1. True to his nature, Diego said he had "enjoyed the first goal more", and that it was scored thanks to the "hand of God". And that's at least one reason why Maradona is not the greatest.

Diegomas Helmeradona

Bayern 2-1 Nuremberg (Bundesliga 1994)

The worst mistake in Bundesliga history saw Thomas Helmer successfully impersonate Maradona. In the 24th minute, at 0-0, Bayern took a corner from the right side. The ball came to Helmer, standing about 1.5 m from the goal, near the left post, with keeper Andreas Kopke 1.5 m right of the post on the line. Kopke dove to close the near corner while Helmer stumbled and miskicked the ball past the post. The ball bounced off a panel behind the goal back onto the pitch, while Helmer helped Kopke get up and the goalie prepared himself for a goal kick. They then both realized that the linesman had signaled a goal!

Unfortunately, instead of pointing out to the referee Osmers that the linesman was delirious, Helmer now raised his arms in delight and accepted his teammates' congratulations for a wonderful "goal"! Bayern won by 2-1 (both goals by Helmer), Nuremberg filed a complaint, and the Bundesliga honestly (though sensationally) ordered a repeat of the game. Still, Nuremberg would have done better to have kept silent. In the replayed game, Bayern won by 5-0 and their neighbours went down due to goal difference.

Danke, Herr Sundell!

Germany 2-1 Croatia (Euro 1996)

Markus Babbel was about to make a cross from the right flank, but found the powerful Nikola Jerkan blocking his way. Undaunted, Babbel slammed into Jerkan with his shoulder and leveled him to the ground, while the Swedish referee Leif Sundell silently observed the play. Babbel crossed the ball, and the weakened Croatian defence failed to stop Matthias Sammer from controlling the ball and slamming it into the net for 2-1 to Germany. A scandal, but the Swede was not concerned. Previously he had controversially sent off Igor Stimac for a tackle on the centre, and awarded a penalty for Germany after the ball hit Jerkan's hand (and not vice-versa) on the border of the Croatian area. And Germany went on to win the trophy, as it often happens when you have a strong wind in your sails.

World Cup in Japan and Korea:

Italy and Spain, the victims

The past World Cup had its share of errors. More than its share, to be perfectly honest. Englishman Graham Poll penalized Italy twice against Croatia, thus enabling the Croats to win by 2-1. First he disallowed a Vieri goal due to a nonexistent offsides. He then called back a Pippo Inzagi goal as a result of a phantom foul on Dario Simic. Poll's linesman played an important part in both decisions.

Italy suffered another blow when linesman Amat from Mali declared Inzaghi's goal invalid because of an alleged offsides, though Pippo was a meter behind the defender the moment the ball was kicked towards him. The other linesman, Simon from Brazil, invalidated a Montella goal, also on grounds of an offsides that never existed. A now infamous referee, Ecuadorian Byron Moreno, had previously sent off Totti for diving, when the Italian appeared to have been fouled. Korea ultimately went through thanks to a golden goal.

More refereeing errors went in Korea's favour, and the worst ones happened in the quarterfinals against Spain. The magnificent trio of Al Ghandour (Egypt), Tomusange (Uganda) and Ragoonath (Trinidad and Tobago) cost Spain two legitimate goals (Song's into his own net and Morientes's) and prevented them from scoring another by stopping play due to a phantom offside.

The Biggest Mystery

England 4-2 W Germany (WC 1966)

If the English were blatantly robbed by Maradona in the Hand of God incident, 20 years before the Fathers of soccer received a gift of a goal that meant a whole World Cup. There was Geoffrey Hurst's volley, a ball, a bar and a goal line. There was the Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst who did not have a clue and the Soviet linesman who thought he had seen the ball completely cross the goal line.

Both sides, England and Germany, have produced "solid evidence" that the second Geoffrey Hurst's goal was and was not legal. Your reporter, a complete neutral, has reviewed the video about 500 times and has not been able to ascertain whether the goal was scored or not. Greater minds and sharper eyes have failed in the same task before and after him.

In a court of law, there is a rule called "in dubio pro reo": in the case of doubt, the court shall rule in favour of the accused. Perhaps a parallel can be drawn between law and soccer: in case of doubt, the ruling should favour the defending side, and an unclear goal should never be given.

Ozren Podnar

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