By Walter Broeckx
Finally the world cup is over. Time to start looking ahead and think about real football, club football and Arsenal. But just a final word from my point of view on the refs in the world cup. We all have seen the big mistakes some refs made and I am going to leave them out of this. I have made my view on those things clear before. But now I want to start with the final and ref Howard Webb.
I don’t know how Fifa came up with the idea of appointing Webb for this match. I know other candidates were the Belgium referee De Bleeckere but Fifa thought it would not be wise to appoint a ref that does every year some 3 or 4 games in the Dutch league. (The Belgium, the Dutch and the Fa of Luxembourg have an agreement where refs from the different countries do games in each others league. So you cannot send a ref on the field who does games in the Dutch league. A very, very wise decision from Fifa not to take him.)
But if I was responsible at Fifa for the appointments of the refs for the world cup final I would have a look and start with the two countries involved. In this case both European so I would rule out all the European refs. And certainly in this final where a lot of players actually play in the English PL. The chance that, to stay with him, De Bleeckere would have had a player on the field that he knows from the Dutch league was very small as there were only 3 Dutch players on the field who actually play in the Dutch League.
But as for Webb, I think there were some 6 or 7 players that he sees in the league on a regular basis. And it’s never good to have this in a world cup final. And you had them in both teams as with Cesc, Torres and also Alonso in the Spanish team and with Robin, Heitinga, De Jong in the Dutch side.
So for me it was a bad decision from Fifa to take Webb. They should have taken a ref from South America. I think that there should have been somewhere a ref from Argentina or Mexico somewhere around who knows what it’s like to do a tough game. Fifa could have taken a ref from any continent – except Europe.
On to the game that Webb had. The Dutch were furious for Webb missing the fact that a free kick, just before Spain scored, clearly came off Cesc in the wall and Webb didn’t give the corner. I agree with the Dutch that this was a very bad decision. But unfortunately it was not his first bad decision. I just think it was one of his last bad decisions.
In the first 25 minutes Webb should, or at least could, have given more than just the yellow cards he showed. The foul from Van Bommel on Iniesta (or Xavi?) was a very dangerous tackle. It was close to a red. And then the karate-kick from De Jong… well what can you say about that. I know that in the next video meeting we have in a few weeks time we will be seeing this attack and get the instructions to always give a red card. Studs showing at his chest. What more do you need to give a red card? Could it be that De Jong plays in the EPL that made Webb mild at that moment?
So the Dutch in fact were lucky to still have 11 players on the pitch at that moment. But when the players feel that the ref is allowing a lot, then you can expect the players to do things that are totally out of order. Webb didn’t have the balls at the start of the game to do what he should have done and send Van Bommel or De Jong off the field. It would have stopped the dangerous tackles at once.
Were the Spanish players angels? I can tell you that I was very annoyed with their behaviour also. Every time they were fouled and when they were still falling to the ground they were waving their arms to Webb and asking for a yellow card. Hello, Mr. Webb the instructions are still there that if a player asks for a yellow card for an opponent he himself also should be booked. And if the ref doesn’t think the foul needed a yellow card the player that was asking the card will be the one who gets the card. But for some reason Webb let it go on the whole game without giving a yellow card to a Spanish player for this behaviour.
Every now and then he made a gesture to the Spanish players to not ask for a card. You can make this gesture once. You can even tell them twice to not ask for yellow cards. But after that it should stop and then you must give a yellow card for the player that is asking a card for another player. But Webb showed that he noticed the gestures from the Spanish players but he just let it go. And by doing nothing about it, except every time telling them not to ask it, he was undermining his own authority. After 5 times the Spanish players knew he wouldn’t do anything about it so they just went on and on with asking for yellow cards for the Dutch players.
And so I ended up shouting at my TV: “come on Webb don’t let the players run the show for you, be a man.” He just had to give one yellow card and it would have stopped, but he didn’t and the Spanish players harassed him when ever he made a decision. At the end of the day you got more and more the feeling that the players were starting to dictate what the ref was doing and not the other way around, as it should be.
Was it because Webb knew too many players too well? Was it that Webb was sensitive for the critics he had received after the Spanish lost against Switzerland? Fact is that almost after every decision the Spanish players surrounded the ref and after a certain time the Dutch started doing this also when they saw that he didn’t do anything about it. It was embarrassing to watch as a ref.
Now you will not hear me say that with another ref the Dutch would have won. No it could well have been that after half an hour the Dutch would have been with 10 man and would have lost in 90 minutes as I think that the Spanish team was the best team on the field. But now I felt unsatisfied with the way that Webb did this game. He was too soft for the dangerous fouls and too soft and allowing the players to surround him on every decision.
So from a ref’s point of view I was very disappointed with his game, or well, at the end of the game I was thinking to myself: it was a typical Webb match. Not extremely bad but still bad enough to make you wonder: how on earth is it possible that he keeps getting away with it?
I think it has something to do with his hair, or lack of it. Ever since Colina people at Fifa think that a bald ref is a good ref. Colina was a good ref, one of the best ever possible, but as we have seen with other bald refs it doesn’t help you. Just remember Hanson, Ovebro and Webb. All bald but none of them really that good.
- Arsenal v the team that will present a giant toothbrush to our captain
- Arsenal squad for Europa League game
- The abuse of female footballers is appalling, but there is a wider context
- Why Arsenal v Glimt might be tougher than the game against Tottenham
- Is the team that passes the most, the team that gets the best results?