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How deep can we sink? The end of football.

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.

11 comments to How deep can we sink? The end of football.

  • avatar hoopspur

    I came on here to see what the general feeling was around your place, although not to gloat.

    I heard about this story on the news this morning and I thought it terrible then. Your piece above puts most of the crap we deal with from weekend to weekend into perspective – it really is shocking. May I wish the assistant referee’s family my sympathy and hope he rests in peace.

  • avatar chris from Cambridge

    In England’s junior leagues officials are also threatened and there have been instances of attacks. Parents and family are sometimes to blame. This is how low society has sunk. Moving to rugby, a junior team playing somewhere in Harlow found home team fathers shouting at their sons to ” …. fucking kick him … kick him in the fucking head ..” They didn’t renew the fixture and the home parents may or may not feel proud of themselves.

  • avatar Phil

    I played Sunday league football in London in the 80’s and a few times our lads had to escort a ref to his car after he was threatened by players or spectators. Some games were played in pretty remote locations where the ref was really vulnerable. On his own in the middle of a park with ten people saying they’re going to kill him at the end of the game. This in the days before everyone had mobile phones – so he couldn’t ring for help or anything. Honestly we had to hold people back while the ref got into his car and sped off.

    Not good. Those teams were fined and had to appear before the local FA people but it still went on.

  • avatar ARSENAL 13

    Last year I switched on to watch I-League (India). The linesman who waved off side (which was the right decision) was attacked by the players. The coach (of the same team which attacked the referee) ran half the pitch to rescue the referee and disperse his players (he slapped a few players).

    AND shockingly…..there was no yellow or red cards. Incident dint even make the news. No action taken against players… Thats the only time I watched the I-league…..and was the last time.

    How are we supposed to have a fair game if the referees are not protected from these bullies.

  • avatar Sav from Australia

    Read about the attack this morning. Despicable, vile behaviour.

  • avatar GoonerPete

    That’s a bit of a cop out!
    You can’t blame computer games for the rise in violence, especially from kids.
    Certain games are graphic in nature, correct. But these games come with warnings and age certificates.
    It’s the parents that allow these kids to play the game.

    An emotionally mature person doesn’t have violence issues because of computer games.

    Personally I think more the break down of organised religion is the cause for the increased violence.
    No fear of ramifications from a God and people do as they please.

    On the subject of the 3 kids beating the poor lino.
    They should all be given the lethal injection. The world doesn’t need savages like that.

  • avatar Stuart

    GoonerPete,
    Walter did only say maybe.
    I’m inclined to dis-agree with you on the religion front. People have been brought up for years without religion and not turned out as killers, my personal belief is this comes down to respect and family values, the latter of which would take us back to Walters point (and yours) that the kids shouldn’t have video games like this.

  • avatar nicky

    I sometimes despair of the human race, when amateur, minor league players can carry out murderous attacks like this for little or no reason, except in their own twisted minds.
    And in the Netherlands, a country noted for its tolerance, which suffered so much during WW2.
    I only hope that the murderers (because that is what they are) will be dealt with severely under the law. Violence of any sort during or after a sporting occasion simply cannot be tolerated.

  • avatar allezkev

    Having been a Class 3 referee during the 1980’s at the coalface of the Hackney Marshes and Wanstead Flats, i can only feel great sadness at what happened in Holland.
    Walter, in England, when i was officiating, i had to ask volunteers to run the line, often the subs or the odd supporter who had come along to spectate…
    More often than not, i had no Linos and just got on with it. Any thoughts of running a diagonal out of the question…
    I just did the best that i could, offsides were just the toss of a coin…
    But i enjoyed it and only got the threat of having my face rearranged about once a season.
    Maybe i wasn’t too bad at it. Fortunately i didn’t wear glasses at the time…
    By 1990 i could sense a change in the behaviour of players and thought that they could all ‘do one’ and hung up my whistle…
    Just doing the odd game for my sons team Doddinghurst Olympic.

  • avatar Domhuail

    Walter……this is NOT a singular or unique incident, threats, bullying, verbal abuse and violence against officials and players has been in the game since my grandfather played. These thugs and murderers must be treated as adults and held 100% responsible for the 2nd degree murder of the poor linesman.
    Research shows that violent video games do not increase the likelihood of real-life violence by adolescents and that most people can differentiate between reality and fantasy. That said, psychotic individuals and those with limited self-control can become very violent when faced with a frustrating situation. These angry kids lost control and beat the linesman, causing severe brain damage and eventual death. As a retired national referee I was both the victim and a witness to extreme violence on and off the pitch quite a few times and it was almost always related to an ethnic or partisan conflict that had nothing to do with Football. For some supporters, the game is NOT a game but the defining meaning of their lives and anyone who risks ruining their perceived hegemony is soon taken care of.
    Kids are definitely more violent and less disciplined today but it isn’t related to TV or media or movies or video games per se….it is a reflection of the adult world’s abandonment of basic ethical and societal principles that, until recently , were the glue that held society together. I saw a very disturbing video called ¨Hooligans¨ which dealt with British and continental criminals who pretended to be Football fans but were, in fact, fascists and anarchists looking to ventilate their societal rage, using club affiliations as a smokescreen. It is reflected now, in the racism and facism we see at some Clubs and the partisanship espoused by more radical fans against League officials and management of their clubs. FIFA and EUFA, as well as many FA’s have been far too tolerant of such behaviour and are a big part of the problem.

  • avatar WalterBroeckx

    I just heard that at the start of the WC for club teams they will hold a minute of silence to remember the murdered assistant Mr. Nieuwenhuyzen.
    And also in my country each game will start with one minute of silence.

    The least we can do….