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Wherein I defend referee Howard Webb. Seriously.

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Referee Howard Webb tosses Netherlands center back John Heitinga. Yes, Spain's Carlos Puyol should have been sent off, too ... but it's not Webb's fault that Arjen Robben tried to play through the challenge ... ya know, something different for him.
Referee Howard Webb tosses Netherlands center back John Heitinga. Yes, Spain's Carlos Puyol should have been sent off, too ... but it's not Webb's fault that Arjen Robben tried to play through the challenge ... ya know, something different for him.

I defend referees about as often as I eat beets.

And I really can’t stand beets.

But I just don’t understand the verbal mortars launched at English referee Howard Webb over the recent World Cup final. This is coming up again because I stumbled across this story about Webb responding to the criticisms. (Well, that … and because, like so many others out there, I’m clinging for dear life onto any last, lingering strands of World Cup joyness from June and early July. Sigh.)

I’d like to know what, exactly, Webb was supposed to do in a match that was quite difficult to manage thanks to the naughty and newly angry Dutch?

I really hate the thoughtless knee-jerking about 14 cards being issued. Yes, that’s a high figure. But it really is the height of nincompoopery to simply wave your hand dismissively and proclaim Webb as “card happy” – a silly term that I truly can’t stand, one frequently employed by simpletons in lieu of more thoughtful analysis of a situation. Take that, ye simpletons. Now go find a book with lots of big, pretty pictures and just sit quietly for a little while. You’re so precious!

 

Nigel "The Cleat" de Jong probably should have been ejected for his assault on Xabi Alonso. If that had been on an EPL Saturday rather than a World Cup final Sunday, I’d wager you a delicious South African milk tart that de Jong would have seen red. Mark van Bommel could have been booked four times, and if Wesley Sneijder got one more warning I swear I was going to start a drinking game. And that’s a referee adjudged to be card happy, whatever that means?

Referees are like bar owners. Some days are going to be busier than others – and every now and then you’re going to have to throw a bum out. That’s not their fault. But if they let their customers act a fool and don’t throw them out,* then it’s on them.

(*Yes, yes, I get the irony of this post when held up against something else I wrote today on another outlet about referees and ejections. If you don’t know what I’m talking about … well, just move along then … nothing to see here, folks.)