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Monday Morning Center Back: A rough weekend to be a referee

Good morning folks. It was an emotional weekend in the soccer world. From triumphs like Tottenham’s Carling Cup win, to tragedy like Eduardo DaSilva’s career-threatening leg injury. From an overzealous goalkeeper striking a referee (and I use the term ‘striking’ loosely) to some title races getting tighter. You name it and last weekend had it.

I’ll start the day focusing on some rather memorable incidents involving referees in Australia, Italy and Germany this weekend. Let’s start in Australia, where Australian goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has received a 15-month suspension (which has been reduced to nine with six months probation) for making contact with referee Mark Shield at the end of the A-League championship game.

For those of you who missed it, Shield completely missed a clear handball call that should have awarded Central Coast a potential game-tying penalty kick in the dying seconds of the final, but as referees are prone to do, Shield swallowed his whistle. Vukovic wasn’t too happy about it and after protesting, proceeded to deliver an unwanted high-five to the raised hand of Shield. It was a rather harmless incident but the Australian Football Federation didn’t think so.

You make the call:

Worthy of a suspension? Probably not, though it should be noted that Vukovic will serve most of it in the A-League off-season. The only problem is the federation is considering having the ban include international competition, which would rule out Vukovic from the Olympics. The Aussies need to settle down a bit. They should worry more about a championship match that resembled a bar brawl more than a soccer match at times.

What I find interesting is how different countries handle the player-referee dynamic. Consider the Juventus-Reggina match. Juventus midfielder Momo Sissoko was whistled for a penalty foul after inexplicably trying a bicycle kick clearance in his own penalty area. Referee Paolo Dondarini awarded a penalty, but not before being accosted by Juventus defender Nicola Legrottaglie, who didn’t just make contact with Dondarini, but actually grabbed the ref’s wrist to keep him from raising his arm as he prepared to show a yellow card to Sissoko. I was shocked when Dondarini didn’t even react to being grabbed. Didn’t show a card to Legrottaglie, just went about his business.

In Germany, not only is touching a referee a major offense, even insulting one with a gesture is risky. Consider Bayern Munich midfielder Mark Van Bommel, who disagree with a call by referee Lutz Wagner. Rather than simply shout at the referee, Van Bommel tried to sneak in an "Up yours" while Wagner was walking away. Unfortunately for Van Bommel, Wagner must have known he was up to something and turned around just in time to catch him.

The scene, which must play out in schools across the country, was the funniest moment of the weekend, and has to be seen to be appreciated:

The best is Van Bommel running off the field clearly upset at being caught doing something so dumb. Who knew the Dutch midfielder was only 12 years old?

In short, don’t mess with referees.

What did you think of these incidents? Does Vukovic deserve a suspension? Did LeGrottaglie deserve at least a yellow card? Does Van Bommel deserve a week’s detention? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Its pathetic that something like slapping a ref’s hand, albeit it a stupid thing to do, can draw a 15 month suspension. I mean what happened to edward de silva is horrific and yet that has not drawn any ban or suspension of any kind.

    15 months for slapping a refs hand is absurd. The A-league needs to think about what they are doing. Vukovic did not attack the ref, he slapped his hand after a bad call. Vukovic NEEDS to be suspended, but 15 months…thats ridiculous.

    Posted by: NOLA soccer fan | February 25, 2008 at 08:11 PM

    Remember also the call in question was a “hand”ball

  2. Ives,

    There was also a huge refereeing error in the Carling Cup final which you do not mention here (and neither do you mention it in the post about the game itself).

    With Spurs defending a 2-1 lead in extra time, referree Mark Halsey whistled to end the match after about 3 minutes of stoppage time — right as Chelsea were pressing, inside the Tottenham box! This, as opposed to the normal practice of letting the chance play out.

    While this error does not exactly rise to Clive Thomas proportions, it does indicate a distinct lack of concentration on the part of Halsey, who clearly had lost track of the action on the pitch while paying undue attention to the second hand on his wristwatch.

  3. Its pathetic that something like slapping a ref’s hand, albeit it a stupid thing to do, can draw a 15 month suspension. I mean what happened to edward de silva is horrific and yet that has not drawn any ban or suspension of any kind.

    15 months for slapping a refs hand is absurd. The A-league needs to think about what they are doing. Vukovic did not attack the ref, he slapped his hand after a bad call. Vukovic NEEDS to be suspended, but 15 months…thats ridiculous.

  4. Boy did they get all of those backwards.

    Suspend Legrottaglie for a while. You don’t interfere with a ref doing his job. That would’ve been a straight red in 80% of the leagues I ever played in.

    Van Bommel had a beef. He just chose a bad way to express it. I’d even appeal to overturn the red card so he could play again this week.

    Not sure what to do about the keeper down under. Seems like missing the Olympics would be penalty enough, but the headlines did severely blow it out of proportion.

  5. since we are bagging on the refs, lets not forget the linesman. In the Bayern-Hamburg game, Hamburg clearly won a throw in when a pass deflected off of Altintop. Altintop quickly picked up the ball, threw in to Podolski who crossed to Ze Roberto who scored

  6. Well Joe D, I guess I’m guilty of a little schadenfreude regarding Juve. They shouldn’t even be back in Serie A as far as I’m concerned. What they are (were) guilty of cuts at the very heart of the sport, and I don’t forgive it lightly. I’m all in with you on the notion that officiating should be fair and consistent – and should be better than it is, I just have a hard time mustering up much sympathy for a side that has manipulated the officials in the past.

  7. Ives,
    I am not sure if you realize this, but in FIFA 2008 there is a cut-scene when a player gets a yellow card that shows the player grabbing the referee’s arm. It’s a really poor display of how a ref should be treated and it is in a game that is very popular. The player does not get the card for grabbing the ref, he is getting the card for another incident, but is pleading his case by grabbing the ref’s arm. Poor decision to use this cut-scene by EA Sports.

  8. thanks emilio, I take your comment to mean that the refs did clearly signal a stoppage of play and RM were just sleeping. No one disputes the offside call for sure, it just seemed to me that when any other goal is scored and called back for offside there doesn’t seem to be this kind of confusion – if it’s RM’s fault then it’s on them.

  9. Ives –
    Thanks for highlighting an ongoing problem with regard to player behavior toward referees in your MMCB column. You are right when you say “Don’t mess with referees.” All three of the incidents above that you describe should be red cards according to USSF. I’m very surprised that the Italian referee did nothing if things unfolded as you described.

    USSF has a position paper on the topic here (, along with some video clips – one of which features our old friend Amado.

    The key phrase in the position paper follows: “Under no circumstances can aggressive, unwanted physical contact
    with officials be tolerated and all instances must be dealt with firmly both
    by the appropriate action under the Law (red card for violent conduct) and
    by including all details in the match report.”


  10. Hey JAT,

    Did you watch the entire Reggina-Juve match? Because it doesn’t sound that way from your comment. What Sissoko did was stupid and was a penalty, but the ref ignored two obvious penalties for Juventus earlier in the match. The first one was when Reggina defender Carlos Valdez basically jumped on Nedved’s back and road him to the ground in the box in the first half. The second one was even more blatant as Sissoko was taken out in the box by Valdez in the second half. The ref even acknowledged the foul, but said to play on instead of giving a penalty. There were a few handballs as well, but none were intentional and didn’t deserve penalties. My point is that this ref already established that he wasn’t giving any PKs in this game, but then gave one to decide the outcome of the game.

    Juventus has every right to complain, as they seem to be having calls go against them this year because the refs are afraid to get destroyed by the media if they give Juve the benefit of the doubt. Plus, why should we just accept the poor quality of referring in Serie A? It should be getting better, not remaining the same or getting worse! There were bad calls in the Milan-Palermo game as well, and lets not forget that Inter is good for at least one suspicious call going their way per week.

  11. I caught the Juve-Reggina match … stupid, stupid foul by Momo and a deserved penalty. The irony of Juve now sending out their missives decrying the state of refereeing in Serie A is just delicious!

  12. The spanish language gol tv, showed the play, they showed the replay about 5 minutes after it occured. No one in spain is disputing the offside call they are just saying how infantile it was for real to get caught that way.

  13. 15 months way too much – int’l suspension would be a crime. van bommel – hilarious.

    The real madrid issue was a bomber – emilio has seen something I (and phil and ray) haven’t. what we saw in replays during the goltv match didn’t show either ref making the usual gestures that the play was dead. is there another camera angle somewhere that shows it?? (note: I am not a real madrid fan)

  14. most matches at DC its easy to get tickets if you just walk up, unless they are playing the Beckham show you shouldn’t have too much trouble

  15. Nine month ban for that? You’ve got to be kidding me. I would think a two match suspension at the very most. The handball was terribly obvious and the ref ought to be reprimanded for that.

  16. Raul was in an offsides position (clearly as replays showed), when he took the initial shot). The linesman signaled offsides and they were too into the celebration to notice. Getafe was quick to react and scored the game winner.

  17. Haha. I love how overblown the headline of that article is (“Vukovic banned for 15 months for slapping ref”). When I read that I figured the player got angry and smacked the ref across the face or something.

  18. Hey got a question off topic to DC fans-
    I wanted to go down to a game this year, is it just as easy getting tix day of the game or should i get them online? Memorial day weekend, dont know if it makes a difference?

  19. Part of the problem was the Van Bommel had already been given a bogus yellow earlier in the match. That and the phantom foul that took away a goal for Bayern made him frustrated enough to throw a little tantrum. He was probably getting a day off this weekend anyway.

  20. What happened in the Real Madrid game? I still haven’t seen anything about why the players started celebrating the goal, but there was a offides or foul. Did the players celebrate the goal before seeing a flag or hear a whistle? Or, did the refs not correctly dismiss the goal?

    In the end, I thought it was amazing how 10 seconds changed that whole game.


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