The world cup final: being bald does not make you into a good ref

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.

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

36 Replies to “The world cup final: being bald does not make you into a good ref”

  1. Ridiculous.
    Refs should be picked because of how they’ve done in the tournament, with the only deciding factor being if they are from the same country.

    Granted Webb wasn’t brilliant and I think he’s had a bad season but I think your reasonings for “being too close to the players” is just silly.

    Sure he refs the league some of the players play in but that should not be a factor as to whether or not he gets picked. His performance should be.

    At the World Cup he was one of the better performers and he tried to let the final flow (although it was hard to do so). Sure he could have carded a few people looking gesturing for cards but countless refs ignore this rule. I know it’s in the books but heh.

  2. Walter — Great article. The match was really out of hand. But don’t bash the bald guys too much! 🙂

    Webb sucks. Simple as that.

    What bugs me even more is that all the pundits care about is lambasting Holland for their foul play. Where are these guys when Notlob and Stoke Shitty try to kick Arsenal off the field?

  3. Spot on Walter … but what about Iniesta ? Studs first tackle on Robben(I think), then when he doesn’t get a free kick for a foul by Van Bommell, he barges into him right in front of Webb … surely both yellow card offences !!! And Puyol, already on a yellow, rugby tackles Robben, who tries to score and so doesn’t dive to the floor as the cheating Spaniads would have done … surely te offense still exists even if the opposition player is honest enough to try and play on ???
    Webb has always been and always will be a terrible ref … he can’t even tell the difference between Eboue and Adabayor !!!

  4. Thanks Walter. The second time Robben got away, Puyol pulled him back. Robben’s gait changed, but he didn’t go down. Surely the foul was obvious from any angle? Did Webb not give it because it would have been a second yellow for Puyol? That would have changed the game totally; even Cesc would have battled to rescue it.

  5. Tim, Bald guys can be great refs but it doesn’t help. But one advantage(?) they have is that they cannot tell that their hair was hanging in front of their eyes so they couldn’t see it. 😉

    And about the English pundits I’m shocked by this. I watched it on the Belgian TV so I didn’t know that they found it unacceptable. LOL. So they do know the rules, they do know that it is bad for football. Just wait untill the first kick the Arsenal off the field team comes along. Interesting to hear from them…
    But don’t worry I know what they will be saying then….

  6. i cant agree more walter. the refereeing was not good, but it didnt help that the dutch were playing kickball, and howard didnt want to send anyone off. at the end he had no choice but he was doing his best to maintain a flow.

    i think he was chosen because fufa arent going to give england the 2018 tournament.

    i thing webb was consistent tho. its not as if his refereeing style changed for this one game, he was equally lousy.

  7. Minesy, you are right. But there were so many ugly tackles last night I couldn’t mention them all.

    The foul on Robben when he didn’t went down is a very difficult one. If Robben would have gone down Webb could only give a free kick and a yellow against Puyol. But I have seen Webb letting fouls go commited by Spanish players that left me with my mouth open. Foul on Elia in the extra time when he was sandwiched by 2 players and Webb let play carry on.
    The problem with Webb is that you never know what he will do.

    Iniesta when he barges in to Van Bommel was at least a yellow card. He had seen it but gave nothing. Those are the things that you are a Coward instead of a Howard, or not competent.

  8. The problem is that so long as the players spend more time trying to cheat than play then the referee is always going to be perceived as at fault. If Webb had done what he should have done and sent van Bommel and de Jong off before half time then Spain would have run out 3 or 4 – nil winners and the whole world would have blamed Webb for spoiling the match as a contest.

    The players, and the coaches that send them out under instruction to cheat, are responsible for their actions. All refs are just pissing in the wind no matter how many cards they wave.

  9. Maybe it is just a problem with English refs and these nasty foreign fellows.

    Consider if you will Chile v Italy, in 1962 (I am old enough to have seen it). The “Battle of Santiago.”

    This match had as ref Ken Aston completely who lost it so much that the police had to come onto the pitch three times as the teams started fighting each other. Yet our man Ken didn’t send any of the Chileans off, although two Italians walked.

    So, maybe things with English refs are improving.

  10. I dont think van bommel should have even been booked for the first challenge. He jumped in a bit, but I really dont think it was dangerous and if capdevilla did actually get hurt, it was only the way he landed, and not due to a contact from the dutch player. Similarly, puyol shouldnt have been booked, and in both cases webb was fooled by players feigning injury.
    He seemed to fall for every trick, and I agree that by not booking players, he lost control of the game.
    De Jong should have been sent off, no question, and iniesta should have at least been booked for what he did to van bommel. After blatantly feigning an injury when I dont think van bommel touched him, he got up and shoved into him. Granted van bommel probably went over easily, but isnt that the sort of thing for which players usually get booked, and on occasion sent off?
    Overall I think spain played better, but that doesnt mean it was a just result. They failed to score, and apart from the insane decision not to award a corner, I think webb bottled a decision to give elia a freekick just before the goal.

  11. Footballers have reputations, and refs too…..

    I’m sure that when the Dutch asked Van Persie and De Jong, “What’s this Webbed foot wonder guy like?” They would have replied:

    ” Absolute shit, you have to decapitate someone to get yellow.”

    …..Cue a bar room brawl.

    Webb is an absolutely awful referee, as we at arsenal well know.
    But he carries everything out with great pomp and circumstance, which obviously impresses Blatter….you could say he blatters to deceive……to me he is like a less honourable Captain Mainwairing.

    Bottom line he needed to send players off – De Jong definitely, iniesta and Van Bommel maybe also…

    If the game is “wrecked” as a spectatcle, so be it – the players dictate that.

    As it happens, it was a truly awful game – Spain scored about 8 goals in the whole tournament – truly dreadful for a team claiming to be ever so wonderful.

  12. Do I blame the Ref? Maybe, who I really blame is the players. This was easily one of the worst if not the worst world cup final I have ever seen.
    The tactics of todays players are to not loose at any cost vs lets get out there and win. What has happened to the beatiful game? One of the best matches of the whole turney was Denmark vs Cameroon – back and forth, we’ll give it all we have and you do the same and at the end lets see who’s left standing.
    In cotrast, the spaniards reminded me of Italian Arsenal, lots of control but scoring little and diving all over the place as soon as their manhood on the ball was challenged. And Netherlands reminded me of cross between Stoke & Chelsea, not sure how to challenge cleanly but always waiting for the counter.

    Please, please, let this crap stop and have more games where tactics are deployed less and the players care more, and actually try to win vs trying not to loose. It’s bad for football.

  13. “If the Dutch had of triumphed, it would have been bad for the game because there is no place for the way they approached the match.
    It’s one thing to have a game plan, be organised and get men behind the ball, but the cynical way in which they operated for the first 45 minutes was a total and utter disgrace.”
    Alan Hansen

    Oh, I didnt realise this was wrong. It’s weird that they never say that when it’s bolton/blackburn vs arsenal.
    And were spain not an utter disgrace for the way they dived around? Iniesta CLEARLY feigned an injury, got up and pushed van bommel, and far from the referee doing anything, the english commentators didn’t even say anything!?
    They just pick their favourite and support them no matter what. But of course, to say that theyr biased when it comes to arsenal is just ludicrous.

  14. I do agree that FIFA has been choosing the wrong referee for this match. I couldn’t agree more on the fact that as a referee in the EPL, Webb would have met so many players and ex-players week in week out.

    I would like to highlight how inefficient and unwise FIFA has been. Hailing from Singapore, I was proud that our very own referee Shamsul Maidin was voted FIFA’s best referee in WC 2006.
    He wasn’t the official for the final. In fact he was already home by the time the 2nd round kicked off.

    The WC reflects Africa’s capability of staging an international event on such a scale but FIFA had failed and will fail, doing injustice to the beautiful game of football in firstly not willing to use technology to aid the referee. Too many instances in this WC robbed teams of deserving decision.

    If we have problems with the offside laws then scrap it. Use the linesmen to only dictate which side will be taking the throw ins. Instead of having the extra official to be standing behing a goalpost, I’d rather the ball pickers tell the referee of the ball had crossed the line.

    This is a shame. We develop boots, so light in nature – it took Nike and adidas to both do extensive research to provide the best footwear to ensure optimal performances. They develpoed balls so round whose trajection could give the lesser teams a chance to upset the top dogs. We used recycled plastic bottles to manufacture the latest jerseys and we can’t produce decent referees to officiate a game to ensure sportsmanship.

    It’s not aboout money i guess, it’s about politics. And Blatter is becoming more senile and Platini is a French idiot who probably be better ofnot taking part in the game. We’re in the 21st Century. Let Platini, Pele, Beckenbaeur, Charlton, Eusebio etc be ambassadors. May don’t go to school to understand management. The game must progress or FIFA risks their imGE AS A GOVERNING organization

  15. Until refs start pulling up play at every infringement and handing out the correct punishment we will see more games played in an unsporting manner. In the top level ball game we need more officials on the pitch with all officials able to give yellow or red cards. another thing why aren`t pro football players made to prove that they know the rules of the game the same way a referee is. This way a player should not be able to get away with anything.

  16. No Adam. We don’t need refs stopping play for every infringement. We need refs who blow at the right time for the right reasons. Players are like kids in a school yard. If you are not firm and consistent you have chaos. Coward Webb consistently inconsistent, unless the club is Man Utd. If he had set the tone from early by despatching Von Bommel we may have had a spectacle. Instead he dished out 12 yellow cards and you could see him cringing and calculating when to deal a second until Heitinga gave him no choice. Judging by his performance we can expect no better refereeing next season.

  17. Webb refereed the game like it was a Premiership game -which perhaps isn’t that much of a surprise. He allowed a lot of physicality (too much) and tried to keep 22 players on the park and try and not ruin the game. In so doing he ended up allowing the game to be ruined as it became spiteful, petty and ugly.

    However, we have to give the guy a bit of a break.

    Van Bommell should have been sent off in nearly every game of the tournament and Spain have been diving and waving imaginary yellow cards for the whole month. If Webb had done as some on here wanted it would have been 7 against 8 and everyone would have slated him for imposing himself too much on the game. Until the coaches and players take some responsibility the ref, whoever it is, is on a hiding to nothing. You can’t right all the wrongs that have been building in the game for years (feigning injury, violent tackles, cheating, etc.) in one game, no matter how high profile it is.

    As regards the hypocritical comments by the english media pundits, come on! Surely this would only be worthy of comment if they aren’t hypocritical. Is a bear catholic? Does the Pope sh*t in the woods?

  18. @Chris66 – If it ended up as 7 against 8, then it would have been the fault of the players. You would hope that having seen the ref wasn’t going to accept bad challenges, after one player got sent off, it would have calmed down, but if it doesnt then the players have only themselves to blame.
    Besides, these refs should be concentrating on making correct decisions. If something is worth a yellow or red, then give it. This “common sense” refereeing is so ridiculous. Because webb didnt want to send someone off, it descended into a game of just kicking and diving. The other problem wiht this “common sense” is that it varies so much from referee to referee. No one knows when they go onto the pitch what they can and can’t do, because its just so inconsistent. Why cant these guys just apply the laws of the game?

  19. I have to disagree on those who think that if Webb would have done it to the rule book we would end with 7 against 8 on the pitch.
    In fact according to Blatter one of the reasons why football is so succesfull is that it is the same game played from the youth to the world cup final with the same rules everywhere.
    Now we are talking of professional football players and if they feel that the ref will send them off, they will no longer take the risk. And if they do? Then they just have to go.
    I think one early sending off could have changed the game completely and would have made it in to a football match. Maybe the Dutch team would have gone with all in defense but the kicking would have stopped. I’m sure of that. And if they don’t stop I would ask Fifa to check their blood or urine to see what they have taken before the game.

    If professional players feel the ref will not hesitate to send you off, then you can be sure they will behave. No footballer wants to be known for their sending off in the final and make their country lose the game.

    If Fifa would have told the two teams in a briefing the day before the final that the whole world will be watching and that every dangerous tackle will be punished with a red card and that players asking for cards for opponents would get themselves a yellow card, the two teams would have known before the game what was comming.

    It can be as simple as that but, what do I know about clean football if you compare it with Platini or Blatter…

  20. In fact when I have a game of two teams at the top in their division I call the captains and the team representative in my dressing room before the game. And then I tell them what they can expect from me. No asking for cards, no kicking the ball after the whistle, no dangerous tackles. I tell them that to me it is no problem to send someone off the field and that is up to them to make it a football match or a fighting game. And I tell them to tell this to their players before the games starts and that is their responsability to alert them.

    And then on the field I give them one warning (the first player that kicks the ball away or asks a yellow card) and this loud en clear with enough gestures so that everyone can see it. And from then on I do what I have promised them.

    I think in yesterdays game it even could have been done by the 4th official or even been done by Fifa itself.

  21. My point is that Van Bommell and the Biscuit have kicked and cheated their way through the entire tournament and Iniesta, Xavi and certain other Spanish have dived like tarts and waved cards in every single game. The time to take care of this was well before the final, not in the showpiece by which time it is too late. Whatever Webb did he was going to be in the wrong.

    Surely that is the consistency we are looking for?

  22. @Walter; sorry to ask an off topic question but something has been really bugging me: there is a very persistent story in the British press and blogs that the Dutch, especially Sneijder and Robben, were refusing to pass to v Persie. I didn’t see it like that at all, I thought he did a great job for the team, working his socks, creating chances for others and, sadly, only scoring once himself. I’ve been googling the Dutch press about this (I live in the UK) but couldn’t find anything about him being ignored. Anything in the Belgian press about this?

  23. Bart, not exactly in the press about this, yet.
    But I did have the feeling that RVP was playing on an island a bit. He didn’t get the supportive runs he normally gets when he plays for Arsenal from other forwards or midfielders. The Dutch team played the ball most on the flanks for Robben who only can run at people but hardly gives a pass ot another player. And Kuyt who works hard but on the left flank is not the best player ever to have played there.

    I don’t know if it was deliberate to not playing the ball to RVP. Robben is a very selfish player by nature and when it works this is fine but when not you lose a player in fact.

    I think we will maybe hear more about this in a few days. If RVP wants to speak about it.

  24. A sin-bin, which most 21st Century sports seem to have, would not go amiss in football…..

    In fact how about some C21 technology…oh, I think thats been covered already.

    I think if Webb had imposed the rules of the Game correctly, he would be applauded. THAT IS HIS JOB !!!

    If Blatter wants a good spectacle, he should tell the managers that, and maybe introduce a second Trophy, the Artistic Merit Cup.

    That would be great, because Holland 74, 78 would have one that.

  25. However, the most artistic merit I saw in this game was Iniesta Versus Robben in the world freefall swooning competition..

    ok, they were fouled, but some of the writhing was ridiculous.

    Call me partisan, but the game only livened up when Cesc added some real spark to it

  26. Marcus: The pomp and circumstance you mention made me realize how Howard Webb officiates a match, like a traffic cop. His overly exaggerated hand gestures and mannerisms remind me of a cop who is tasked with directing traffic at a busy intersection. He is a cop (as it was mentioned ad nauseum throughout each match he reffed).

    Walter: I agree that RVP did not get adequate service. Robben should have passed to an open RVP for a clear shot at least once in the final. Sneijder made no attempt to ever involve RVP in this or any other game. His only hope was Van der Vaart, who saw too little time in the whole tournament because Van Marwijk had to play two defensive midfielders since neither have the pace to adequately cover the space on the pitch. This strategy, combined with the extreme physical tactics the Dutch deployed in the final, made certain that RVP was never going to have an opportunity to make his mark on the tournament.

  27. Thanks Walter, we’ll see if something surfaces in the next few days. I remain to be convinced, but this is not the thread to discuss this.

  28. Shotta gunna, I feel the advantage rule leads to a feeling of unfair play. But do very much understand the need for a flowing feel to the game. Some teams do break up play as a tactic, we as arsenal fans should know only to well, My point which i should have made clearer is persistent infringements are a bookable and sending off offence but a ref must either stop play or deal with the situation at the next break in play, after that its too late he cannot show a card for the offence, so this can lead to a sense of inbalance to the game, which for me, is not on. Id rather stop play to deal with an infringment to show the players that this cannot continue. over the 90 mins if you have to book then send off numerous players then so be it, clubs will soon get fed up of paying suspended players wages.

  29. I thought Webb was a surprising choice for the final. How easy is it for a ref brought up on kick and rush northern English football- best described as “violent but fair” to distinguish between play acting and real fouls? Both sides play acted but the Dutch did try to physically stop Spain from playing- they in turn tried to gain advantage by diving every time they were tackled.
    Webb performed like he always does-issuing too many cards- so the yellow card is issued for slightly mistimed tackles- like the one Van Persie was booked for early on with no intent as well as for much more serious dangerous tackles- like Van Bommel’s on Alonso- it clearly has little impact. It is no surprise that people are calling for sending offs- but do people really want to ruin the spectacle by sending off 2 or 3 players? The answer is to issue fewer yellow cards not more.

  30. ‘Finally the world cup is over. Time to start looking ahead and think about real football, club football and Arsenal.’

    Finally your opinions about this are at an end. One of the most boring, repeating sagas of personal prejudice.

  31. “One of the most boring, repeating sagas of personal prejudice”

    Oh the irony.

  32. Why did FIFA pick Webb?

    Well – I would assume that this was a political decision from FIFA linking back to the Triesman ‘affair’. If you remember your history he in a ‘secretly taped’ conversation that he knew absolutely nothing about; he ‘outed’ Spanish collusion with Russia to use their contacts in the Russian Mafia to bribe the Referee’s to give them World Cup glory in exchange for Spain pulling out of the 2018 World Cup bid and backing Russia (this is all documented) – and when you think about it a skint English FA with a Wembley shaped white elephant really, really need the 2018 World Cup in order to sell some £10 burgers and/or fish and chips… so Triesman’s comments would send a message out there from the FA that ‘We know what you are doing’. Then he resigned, with a wry smirk on his coupon, and said “sorry about that”.

    Now FIFA/Blatter and co all love a bit of cash and I reckon that England 2018 is the place to make it… what with all the infrastructure and stadia already in place and global fan base in country – FIFA could, I imagine, strike quite a deal. The one problem though… bungs and favours aside; the process is inconveniently democratic.

    So wadda you do eh – you have one country about to buy votes for corruption and probably get away with it? Wadda you do?

    What would Blatter do?!

    Well – I’m assuming that Webb was put forward by the Riley, PGMOB and FA as a man they can trust i.e. not answering his phone to any Russian gangsters for a few weeks… so… give Webb Switzerland Vs Spain – just to show them what he can do and then put the power in his hands in the final to make or break Spanish World Cup dreams.

    This is now fertile ground for a ‘deal’, shall we say, to be struck the other way AND with the added bonus of dusting off suspicion of the England bid getting boned by Spanish/Russian corruption complicity.

    Webb only needed to put a blanket on the game (many small whistles), hold back the better team (Spain), give everything offside, remove advantage play, give nothing in or around the area and NOT send anyone off – keep it 0-0 and wait for the call from Spain.

    Everyone’s a winner… that is except for Russia.


  33. i think overall Webb was quite good. there were so many fouls in this game from both sides – with the Dutch the most cynical and the Spanish the most theatrical 😉 IMO If De Jong was sent off for that challenge on Alonso it would have dramatically changed the outcome of the match and made it a rubbish world cup final…so in a way its a good thing he wasn’t sent off

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *