by Tony Attwood
In Germany, the public service broadcaster, ARD has just brought out a documentary and it is causing a spot of interest, because it is a piece all about the referee Deniz Aytekin, looking at this job in detail.
Now I know you are going to find this hard to believe, because in England referees are removed from public gaze, they may not be interviewed, TV, radio and officially sanctioned newspaper journalists are not allowed to criticise the referees, and the organisation of the PGMO (which runs the referee show) is never but never but never to be discussed on radio, TV or in the press.
But this is Germany, and here matters are different. They look at our set-up and cannot understand why we are so afraid of discussing referees. Is there, some of them wonder, something to hide?
Ah, we say, if only you knew.
So we see and hear the referee, recorded as he goes about his business, which means you can even hear the radio communication between him and his helpers – and his communications with angry players.
Indeed it goes further because before the Bundesliga game between Schalke and Mönchengladbach a couple of weeks ago, a Schalke employee spoke about Deniz Aytekin, who was named referee of the year for 2019, having seen that Aytekin would be in charge of this game.
“Today there are sure to be more cards,” was the comment, and not just because the DFB now wants to crack down on what the Germans call “undisciplined professionals.” Aytekin has a reputation.
We get all that – the comments before the game, what happens in the game, and the aftermath.
In reply to that pre-match comment Aytekin said, “Yes, we loaded the guns.” But then during the game when an assistant from HQ of German VAR in Cologne (directly translated it comes out as “the video cellar”) requests a yellow card in accordance with the new law about player comments and gestures, Aytekin says “no”.
The issue arose because Thuram of Mönchengladbach had gone down under a challenge from the Schalke player Raman. Raman then approached the injured man, leaned over him in what VAR operatives felt was a mocking man and suggested he might get up. Aytekin however did not want to give a yellow and replied: “That is too little for me.” Seemingly not enough sarcasm in the gesture.
Interviewed later (and shall we just pause and note that phrase – we are talking of the referee here, and I have quite correctly typed “interviewed later”. Can you imagine that ever being permitted by the PGMO? No, I can’t. Anyway, interviewed later, Aytekin later said that the right level of punishment had to be found.
Now this has caused considerable discussion because another player, Plea, also of Mönchengladbach was sent off in Leipzig because of a throwing away hand movement.
In that case the television crew were unable to hear radio communication between a referee and his helpers. Or indeed the conversations between the referees and the players.
What we have here is a Fifa referee allowing the sort of closeness to the referee for the creation of this documentary so that the work of the referees can be understood more comprehensively. The film covers everything from the morning yoga exercises to the DFB training camp in Lagos, Portugal during the winter break. That training programme included intensive interval runs “with heavy legs” with the medical examiners in close attendance.
The medics also measure the fat content of the body and possible muscular weak points – and it is all covered in the documentary. The film also gets engaged in the management style of Bundesliga managers Jörg Schmadtke and Max Eberl when they visit the referee in his room.
Meanwhile in the film the work of the Cologne video assistants is also documented. In full. The team extensively study a goal on their screens, and only wave it through as “correctly achieved” when they are all fully satisfied.
The viewers also get to learn about Mr Aytekin who, it seems has as one of his hobbies being a DJ who likes electronic music.
He talks about how he has enough emotional and physical energy which, he says, is drawn from many sources. If you only define yourself as a referee, he notes, life would be “devastating” after a game in which he performs badly. As such he an advocate of video evidence. He says it gives the referees more certainty that most mistakes can now be avoided. “Football,” he says, “has become fairer as a result.”
There really is just one question to ask. Why is it all so different in the Premier League? Or if we want two questions, “What have PGMO got to hide?”
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