By Walter Broeckx
When I heard the news today I couldn’t really believe it. A linesman in Holland yesterday died after being beaten badly by a few 15-16 year old …… I don’t know how to name them to be honest….. I just will call them animals. And this is being disrespectful towards animals I realise as most animals only kill to survive…. I will talk of criminals but that word seems so meaningless and too soft to express my disgust of them.
The facts: Richard Nieuwenhuizen a 41 year old assistant-referee was beaten up by a 3 players from Nieuw Sloten (translated: New Ditches) in a B-youth game (15-16 years old). Mr. Nieuwenhuizen was working as an assistant-referee for the team Buitenboys (translated: Outsideboys). The incident happened after the final whistle. Most players went to the ref to shake hands but 3 of them went to the assistant and attacked him.
The attacking players from Nieuw Sloten punched him and kicked him on the head and neck. Very shortly after the incident Mr. Nieuwenhuizen felt sick, went unconscious and was brought to hospital where they could only see that he had very severe and irreparable brain damage. He died the next day. One of his sons was a player from Buitenboys and he actually witnessed his father being beaten up.
As a referee myself who currently works as an assistant this is a news that touches me. Of course death is part of the real world. We can all get killed any day. A car crash, being hit by a car, a heart attack, well there are a few reasons that can cause a person to die. But going to a game as a ref or an assistant and get beaten up so badly that you die… that is not a thing that should happen.
First of all I should say that in my opinion the way football is organised in Holland is partly responsible. And please, please, please this is not meant to be an excuse but I think it is important that I mention this because I think football in Holland should change their rules as soon as possible.
In my country (and forgive me, I really don’t know how it works in England) when a game needs assistants it is the FA who appoints the ref and his assistants. And a number one rule is that an assistant (or a ref) that is a member of a certain club should never do a game of that club. I am a member of a local club and I will never get appointed to do an official game of that club. This is to make sure or an attempt that all refs and assistants are unbiased when they do their games.
But in Holland this is not the case. In Holland each team has their own assistants who travel along with the club. So when you have a youth game in Holland or reserves you have an independent ref and you have an assistant of each team. From talking with referees they say it is not the greatest system. Because well as you can imagine the assistant travels together with the players so well he might turn a blind eye at times. Imagine losing a game because of a decision from the assistant and then you have to drive back home together. So this puts a lot of pressure on the assistant and … well a lot of bad pressure that could lead to him making wrong decisions.
Now I don’t want to even suggest that he was making bad decisions or anything like that. And even so it isn’t an excuse to attack him. But the system used in Holland is totally wrong in my opinion. And I think apart from the criminals who did the beating the KNVB should rethink their strategy on this. Now with the current system, their might always be a shadow of doubt on each assistant and you only need a few brainless fools to go over board and attack a person. Sending independent assistant referees might be the solution and it might save lives in the future.
And maybe the KNVB might also start to rethink their punishment system. Because in the current situation the 3 killers can only be punished for a maximum of 3 years. So in 3 years time they can start playing football again…. madness…. complete madness… They should never ever be allowed near a football field for the rest of their existence.
The sad thing is that this is another example on how our society is sliding away to a society where if you don’t like something you just take matters in your own hand and beat or kick the person who is wrong.
In this world of computer games where killing people is “part of the fun” young people might get the impression that killing people is not that bad. I don’t know if this can be backed up by the facts but I do have the impression that blind violence is much more present these days than in the days I was younger. People getting beaten up because they ‘looked in a wrong way’ to someone…., people who ask young boys who are making troubles on the bus and who are asked to leave young women alone get beaten up…. I have the impression that some people of this computer game generation look at the world as if it is one big computer game.
The virtual reality that exists in computer games can be dangerous for people who don’t know the difference between right or wrong. How will the mind of a child be influenced by a teacher or parent saying: “you shall not kill” when he then opens his computers and start shooting the enemy down for fun? I don’t know for sure but I can imagine that for some young people it brings killing people to a level of being normal.
Maybe this is part of our modern society. We can be our own sniper sitting behind our computer, we can be our super fighter sitting behind our computer, we can be a mass murderer sitting behind our computer… we can be all that without punishment. Au contraire… the more people you kill the better you are. And it will bring extra features to the game. Even better weapons, more killings, more destruction.
In a way this might even be the same with football. I can imagine people playing football manager, fifaXX (whatever the latest version is called), … you will win the league each time. You can buy who you want, you can do what you want, you can fire who you want, it all is just a few clicks away. Lose a game? Just sack the manager by pressing F12, F6 and F3 and you pick a new manager. That is how it works in these games so after a while you don’t get to see the human aspect of it anymore. Of course a computer game is not human. But managers in real life are, players are made of flesh and real blood.
And as human beings they can make mistakes, they can have a bad day. But in our computerised world where our computer players have no bad days we ignore the human aspect of the game. I don’t want to live in a cold computer world (even though I thank all who have invented computers and the internet from the bottom of my heart) where a human live is worth nothing. We have to remember that each human life is irreplaceable. Once it is gone, it is gone. We must accept that people make mistakes.
I hope that you don’t read this as looking for apologies for those criminals who took matters in their own hand and killed the assistant-referee. It are just my thoughts on how such a thing can happen. But we all have our own responsibility on being respectful for other people and for their life.
I hope that those 3 monsters who attacked the assistant-referee and who killed him will be punished really hard. I don’t know how the justice department works in Holland for minors and how severe they can get punished. But I do hope they will spend a considerable amount of time behind bars to think about their criminal behaviour.
I don’t know how the football world will react to this. I think all games in Holland should have a moment of silence before the game out of respect for the killed assistant-referee and his family. I don’t know how the rest of the world or my country that is one of the neighbours of Holland will do something. But when next Sunday afternoon I run on the field to do my own game, I will remember my colleague assistant-referee on my own.
No violence against referees! No ref = no game. Remember that.