Though we rarely do in-depth reviews of singular games, dear readers, the events which occurred in the match between Hoffenheim and Leverkusen are worthy not only of some attention, but of a detailed explanation of the Laws of the Game and the responsibilities of the Officiating team.
First off, let’s set the stage. Leverkusen went into the half leading the game 1 – 0 against Hoffenheim. On the 70th minute from a Leverkusen corner, Stefan Kießling heads in a goal at the near post…. or does he? At first, Your Humble Narrator thought it was a goal, as did the commentator of the game. But, let’s take a closer look at the replay, shall we?
The ball, after being headed by Kießling, crosses the goal line outside the post and slips THROUGH the side netting, falling into the back of the net. The referee signals a goal. The referee’s assistant, who is on the opposite side of the pitch, also signals a goal, given he does not have an angle of sight to have allowed him to see the difference.
Play is resumed. About a minute later, the Hoffenheim ground staff approaches the referee to indicate that the net has a hole in it, and that the ball traveled through the hole. Here is where things get complicated. According to FIFA’s Laws of the game, once the referee has resumed play, he CANNOT change any call he has made previous to the restart.
In other words, had the referee consulted with the grounds staff, noticed the hole, and confirmed the ball had traveled through it, he CAN call back the play, if and only if he has not resumed play. Once he HAS resumed play, however, the laws of the game FORBID the official from changing their ruling. This is to protect referees from excessive harassment from players regarding controversial plays. Once the whistle is blown and play is resumed, what Your Humble Narrator refers to as “Law 19” takes hold.
Law 19 is not one of FIFA’s laws, dear readers, as FIFA proscribes but 17 laws to govern the Beautiful Game, but is in the category of “conventional footy wisdom” that players, managers and referees acquire and abide by as they become experienced with the ins and outs of the game. What is Law 19, you ask? In my own words: “Shit happens. Get on with it. The show must go on.”
Now, Law 19 notwithstanding, as a licensed soccer referee, I can tell you that this is a nightmare scenario for any ref, and Dr. Felix Brych, who was the match official in charge of this match, was most definitely living a nightmare after this occurred. We’ve all been there, and at the level of FIFA sanction, I am certain Dr. Brych has been don this same ready many, many times.
I can’t speak for everywhere, but in the province of Ontario in the country of Canada where I live, they prepared us for exactly this type of situation from the very first training session you take on your road to becoming a licensed match official. The GOLDEN RULE that they drill into you is this; it does not matter if it takes you ten minutes to restart play. It doesn’t matter who you ask, how long you ask, or what you ask to make your final decision. It is ALWAYS better to take the time, talk to your assistants, and do whatever you can to ensure that you make the right call before you restart play because, once you restart play, you cannot reverse your decision.
Now, with the game at 2 – 0 for Leverkusen, presumably, had the match ended at that score, there may have been an attitude of “Well, the goal didn’t change the outcome of the match, so it’s really of no consequence in the bigger picture.” Citing my own refereeing experience, I can assure you 99 times out of 100, the calls even themselves out over the course of a match.
Oh, but not so fast, my dear readers. Hoffenheim are awarded a penalty on the 82nd minute. Bernd Leno saves, with a tense goal mouth scramble that follows and is cleared. So there is a bit less controversy now, right? Hoffenheim got their chance to pull the goal back, they missed. All is well, no? Well, not quite. Sven Shipplock comes on and nods a header through Bernd Leno that Leno probably should have saved. 2 – 1 Leverkusen, which is how the score ends.
Oh, and let’s not forget the goal that Hoffenheim scored that was called back for offside…. that wasn’t offside. Ironically enough, the poor offside call was made by the same assistant referee whose responsibility it was to check the defective netting which Kießling’s header slipped through. Did I say this was a nightmare for the officials? I stand corrected. This is a nightmare cubed. This is the nightmare that makes the rest of your refereeing nightmares seem like wet dreams filled with super model and porn stars all clamouring to satisfy your every fantasy.
Now, in fairness to Bernd Leno, the Leverkusen goalkeeper, the whistle had been blown a good second before the pass that led to the goal was struck. Bernd Leno did not offer a save at the shot. Would he have saved it had the whistle not been blown? It’s hard to say, but he WAS in the best possible position to offer a save. All things being equal, I give Leno a 33% – 50% chance of making the save had the play not been blown dead for offside, but I digress….
The plots in this game are thicker than cold pea soup, dear readers. Allow me to use my experience as a footy fan, licensed match official, and student of the beautiful game to explain the various dynamics, scenarios and technicalities which surround this controversial match as best as I am able for you, my dear readers.
Now, as a match official, I am loathe to critique other referees at any level for two very simple reasons. First off, it is in poor taste. I am of the opinion that, rather than criticize someone else, you should strive to do better than they have in similar circumstance and failing that, you should keep your criticisms to yourself. Secondly, and most importantly, I know first hand that being a soccer referee is INCREDIBLY difficult. Being a GOOD soccer referee is even MORE difficult.
I would argue it is far more difficult to officiate than to play simply because players are allowed to make mistakes. Referees are not. Not in the eyes of the public, not in the eyes of the teams, the players, the fans or, most importantly, in the eyes of other referees, themselves or the dreaded referee assessor who dissects your performance and illustrates in great detail your every fault, error and oversight.
Now, in the eyes of FIFA, they are very understanding of the plight of the match official, and they understand that no referee ever has or will referee a perfect game. Indeed, if you read over the Laws of the Game, nearly all of the laws which are subject to any form of interpretation are prefaced by the seven words that all match officials live and die by.
“If, in the opinion of the referee…”
You don’t need to be a lawyer to realize that these seven simply words are essentially FIFA’s way of standing behind their referees. It does not matter, according to the laws of the game, whether a player ACTUALLY tripped an opponent. It does not matter if there was contact on the play or if a player took a dive. What matters is simply the OPINION OF THE REFEREE. Referees are protected even further by the laws of the game when some fouls are listed as “Trips or ATTEMPTS to trip”, “Strikes or ATTEMPTS to strike”.
So, given that the laws of the game state that if, IN MY OPINION as a referee, while serving as the match official in a game, a player ATTEMPTS to trip an opponent, I am fully within my rights and responsibilities to call a foul.
Does it matter if the player ACTUALLY tripped the opponent? No, it does not.
Does it matter that the player INTENDED to trip the opponent? No, it does not.
Does it matter if everyone, INCLUDING THE PLAYER WHO WAS TRIPPED, is over the opinion that he accidentally tried to jump over the players leg and tripped himself?
No, it does not.
Regardless of the actual facts or the professions of the players involved, the opinion of the referee is all that matters with regards to the game (s)he is officiating. The referee is the ultimate authority, (s)he is the only authority with regards to the match that they officiate.
I assure you, dear readers, that if I had a nickel for every lie, deception, false claim or protestation made to me in a mere year and a half as a part-time soccer referee attempting to sway my judgment, I would not only own and occupy Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, but I would place an offer to purchase, lock, stock and barrel, the entire province/state of Bavaria that was so incredibly lucrative, the German government simply could not refuse it.
In return for all this power, however, there are some basic responsibilities which are demanded of the officiating team. One of those is the fact that prior to the match, the field of play MUST be inspected by the officiating team and verified to conform with the laws of the game as specified for that particular competition, which are explicit in their descriptions of what is and is not acceptable.
Though some league have minor variations, it is quite explicitly explained that the netting of both goals MUST be inspected to ensure they are properly affixed to the goal posts and are in good repair, leaving no gaps or defects which might lead to a ball passing over, under or through the netting, both prior to the start of the first and the second halves of the game.
I do not think, given the context of this post, dear readers, I need to explain why this is stipulated. Now, in my opinion, dear readers, this is where the fine point with regards to the laws of the game, and ultimate culpability for the phantom goal lies.
In my opinion, if the side netting of the goal, which bared but a single broken strand to allow the Kießling header to sneak into the net and lead to the awarding of a bad goal, WAS ALREADY BROKEN PRIOR TO THE HEADER which slipped through it, then the fault surely lies with the officiating team.
If, however, the side netting was NOT torn prior to the Kießling header, and the power of the header burst a weak seam in the netting, then the blame cannot be affixed to the referee’s assistant nor to the referee as defective equipment led to the missed call.
“But – but – but the ref shoulda seen it!” you will exclaim from the peanut gallery, with the usual assumption of non-referees that we referees are supposed to be omniscient and immune to reasonable restrictions known as “human error”.
My counter argument is simple; It is not the referees responsibility to stress-test equipment, up to and including the netting affixed to the goals. It is the home team’s responsibility, luckily for Dr. Brych and his officiating team, (in this instance that is the injured party Hoffenheim), to ensure the field of play conforms to the standards as set out by the league. If the field crew did not notice any weakness or defect in the netting prior to the match, then why should the referee be any different?
After all, the grounds crew are (presumably) who specialize in the care of the field of play and in ensuring it conforms to the standards set forth by the league. The referee is not a groundskeeper. Referees, under no circumstances, are to repair ANYTHING on the field of play because that is not their area of expertise. That is not their job nor their responsibility.
What IS their responsibility is that if they notice an issue with the field of play, they are to inform the home team, and the home team is responsible for making the field of play conform to the standards of the league or else the match is not to be played. It is to be rescheduled or forfeited, based on the rules and standards of the league in which the match is to be blamed.
Sorry, dear overly-critical fan who loves to blame the referee from the peanut gallery in an exercise of Schadenfreude, a German word which represents the act of taking joy in the hardships and miseries of others. Not the referee’s job, not the referee’s responsibility. That’s a Hoffenheim employees mistake. That’s his mistake, not Dr. Brych’s nor his assistants. Nice try, though! (coughcoughassholecoughcough)
Now, as a referee, I will break the unspoken law of Omerta (or “Code of silence”) to confide this much in you, dear readers. We referees know when we miss calls or make the wrong call. We know before players do, before the fans do, and before the managers do. It’s part of the explicitly sharp instincts and intuition you must develop if you want to stand in the hot spot and wear the coveted “White patch” which signifies FIFA accreditation, the highest level of refereeing accomplishment in FIFA’s infrastructure.
As they say in show business, however, the show much go on, and REGARDLESS of how awful a call we may make, how blatant a foul we miss, or how MANY of them we make or miss in one game, we are taught from the beginning, when most of us are still adolescents, that we must continue officiating the match as though we are infallible and we have not, can not, do not and will not make mistakes. Much like how your grandmother never passes wind, even when she is the only one in the room and both her own ears and nose betray her, it simply does not happen and that is the assumption which we are expected to operate under.
There is a line which I was taught by a man who has over 50 years experience as a match official, and whose knowledge and experience in the beautiful game are so extensive, they are beyond argument or reproach. “When a player trots by me and says “You really blew that call ref,” I look him dead in the eye and say “If you think that’s bad, wait to you see how I call the second half.” And I’ll let you in on a little secret, dear readers. That line works. I know. I use it frequently. Simply because, it doesn’t matter if I “blow the call”. I am the referee! What are the seven golden rules?
“If, in the opinion of the referee….”
As the referee, my opinion is the only one that matters, and my opinion cannot be wrong. It’s mine. It’s only wrong if I say it’s wrong. If you, as an outsider, want YOUR opinion to be the one that matters, you take the referee training courses. You work your way up the ranks. You earn the white patch. Then, YOU will be the opinion that matters, and YOU will enjoy the privilege of an infallible opinion for roughly 90 minutes at a time. Until then, I hate to break it to your, but your opinion means absolutely nothing. If you want to be right, at least in the context of the match, you’re going to have to agree with the referee.
That is the Law as per FIFA, and it’s not going to change any time soon, dear readers, because if it does, no one in their right mind will ever officiate again and you can’t play the game without referees. (Or goalkeepers, as per the Laws of the Game, but I digress….)
If you insist that this is ludicrous, allow me to explain why this, the infallibility of the match official, is an integral part of the laws of the game and that without it, most matches would be doomed to descend into chaos and turmoil.
THE SECOND that you, as the match official, establish that you have made a mistake, that tiny inch of ground that you have conceded to the players will soon turn into a light year of problems. Every second of the rest of that match will be an agony of scorn, derision and an endless and incessant petition from every and any player manager and fan to pounce on that weakness and exploit it.
You have established that your almighty opinion, which is the ONLY authority in the match, is negotiable. And you will be astounded at the aggressive negotiating tactics players and managers will employ to try to “negotiate” a favourable decision from you, the now puppet referee. You have, and will utterly and irrevocably lose control of the match and even the best and most well trained, experienced and well-prepared match officials will ever get that control back before the match is over.
The second the match official loses control of the game, he is no longer fit to execute his primary duty as an official, which is to protect the players safety. Once you are held in contempt by the player, you are no longer respected and your decisions are not heeded. If the player does not heed your decisions or respect your authority, he will challenge it, not by punishing you, but by taking liberties with the opposing team. Those liberties, if they do not result in an injury, will most certainly result in what safety specialists and professionals refer to as a “Near miss”; an instance which, although it did not result in an injury or fatality, easily could have given a minute change to the circumstances of the incident.
As much as a match official trains themselves in mental and emotional toughness and acuity, we are not robots. We do have feelings, and we do genuinely regret our mistakes. The temptation to give “A make-up call” is ever-present when you know you have made a bad decision in a match and you must constantly fight against it once it happens. This becomes a distraction which makes it difficult to give the game the attention that it requires, and the results on the pitch deteriorate quickly if you do not recover your focus and put your emotions aside.
In my experience, wherein I have made more bad or non-calls than I could ever possibly count in a single match, let alone over my entire career, I have come to see that, over the course of a full game, the bad calls, missed calls and questionable calls always even out in the end.
A casual observer, a pundit, a professional soccer analyst or even a professional football player or manager may not SEE that, as not all bad calls or non-calls are exceedingly visible or easy to identify, but any other match official who is worth his salt would likely agree. It all comes out in the wash. There is simply too much that happens over the course of a match to state definitively that one mistake, one contentious call or non-call, no matter how big or how small, determines the outcome of the game.
There is but one universal truth in football and it is this; the players on the field dictate the outcome of the game. 100% of the time, the players on the field dictate the outcome of the game. As a match official, this is at the heart of what we, between one another, refer to as “Law 18”. FIFA’s has 17 Laws that govern the game, and we frequently refer to Law 18 as “the law of common sense”. The golden rule of this law is as stated above. “Always remember that the players on the field dictate the outcome of the match.”
Do not be fooled by the players, the fans, the managers, the pundits, the professionals, the peanut gallery, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, the arm chair quarterback, the evangelists, your mother, your uncle Bob or your preacher into thinking that THE REFEREE dictates the outcome of the match! The referee does not get paid to dictate the outcome of the match! The referee gets paid to get blamed for the results!
It’s a fact!
It’s a fact you learn after your first match, I assure, and after nearly every match thereafter. Some matches, more people blame you than others, but inevitably, the game is never lost because the goalkeeper didn’t make a save. The game is never lost because the defender didn’t mark his man! The game is not lost because the player strayed offside to try to score a goal that he couldn’t score from an offside position! That would be LUDICROUS! RIDICULOUS! OBSCENITY AND PROFANITY! Never, never NEVER! Never in a million years did the PLAYERS ON THE PITCH dictate the outcome of the match!
“It’s all the ref’s fault, coach! I swear I was onside, I SWEAR I was.”
“That ball NEVER crossed the line, ref, I SWEAR it didn’t.”
Bollocks. Lies and deceit. Nonsense, blasphemy and heresy. Shame on you poor losers for your blatant lack of sportsmanship. The match official doesn’t try to rob you of your victory, so why should you blame him for your defeat? Because you’re a sore loser and you lack character, that’s why. Plain and simple.
Did the REFEREE make the defender go in, studs up, from behind, on the last man when he was clear on goal?
No. He did not.
Did the referee push the attacking player past the second last defender before the ball was played forward, making him offside?
No, he did not.
Did the referee make the goalkeeper stray a bit too far off his line, or prevent him from getting to the ball a second earlier?
NO! HE DID NOT!
AND EVEN IF HE DID, THE REFEREE IS CONSIDERED PART OF THE FIELD! IT’S IN THE LAWS OF THE GAME! A ball that bounces off the referee is the same as a ball that bounces off the grass.
That’s the Law!
We know the laws! That’s our job!
Do you? Chances are pretty good that if you THINK you do, YOU DON’T! So quit kidding yourself! You’re certainly not fooling any referees out there, I’ll tell you that much. You might fool your friends, but you won’t fool the ref, and if you do, shame on you for subverting the laws of the game for your own selfish desires, because that is contrary to the spirit of the game, which is what the laws of the game are supposed to uphold. Even if you do get away with this heinous crime, you are still a criminal by virtue of action if not by virtue of indictment, and shame on you for bringing disrepute to the beautiful game.
“but-but-but-but what about that bullshit penalty ref?”
What about it? WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 89 MINUTES OF THE GAME? DID THE REFEREE MAKE ALL ELEVEN PLAYERS INCAPABLE OF PUTTING IN SUFFICIENT EFFORT TO WIN THE MATCH FOR ALL NINETY MINUTES OF THE MATCH’S DURATION WITH A SINGLE DECISION?
NO! He did not, can not, will not and never has.
The ONLY truth in football is that 99.9999999999% of the time, the players dictate the outcome of the match with their play on the field. The other minute percent of the time, the referees he made an honest mistake at the ABSOLUTE LAST SECOND of the game where nothing could be done to alter it, and in those rare instances, I can only say that despite the illusion of infallibility, we refs make numerous mistakes over the course of EVERY game, but even on the worst of games, we will ALWAYS make less mistakes than the players because the only we a ref can make a mistake is if the player makes one first and we misjudge it. So, at our ABSOLUTE WORST, we are just as bad, for a tiny moment, as one of the players.
Most of us can live with that and those of us that can’t don’t do it for very long, which is why it is so hard to find good referees. Because refereeing is EXTREMELY hard, not SOME of the time, but ALL of the time. If it as easy, everyone would do it. So when those with the courage, conviction and talent TO do it make a tiny mistake, regardless of the end result of that mistake, be classy, dear readers.
Do the right thing. Refer to Law 19, Your Humble Narrators personal addition to FIFA’s Laws of the game, over and above the “Secret” law 18 that we referees share. The law of inevitability. The law of Life that none of us can prevent and all of us must deal with over and over and over again in our lives, both on the pitch and off it.
“Shit happens. Get on with it. The show must go on.”
The match official is not a God, dear readers. (S)he is not infallible, though we are instructed to operate under the presumption that we are while we are executing our duties on the pitch. The match official is not your enemy or you friend.
The match official is an observer. The match official is a guardian, a protector. That’s why we are there. To protect you. ALL of you. The player. The manager. The fan in the stands. Our PRIMARY CONCERN is ALWAYS your safety. After the players, we protect the coaches and the staff on the sidelines. After the coaches and staff, we protect the fans. Most of us, we protect the game, the beautiful game that we love. We protect it’s reputation and the spirit of sportsmanship that it represents.
Where else do Muslims, Christians and Jews embrace each other as brothers and sisters, regardless of the politics and policies of their personal lives, their nations or their cities?
Where else do nations with histories of violence, intolerance and genocide come together to compete with one another, stand side by side and show the universal human sign of respect by shaking each others hands. Every minute of every day all across this planet, people who, in other circumstances, might absolutely despise one another come together on a field, be it grass, dirt or cement, come together to share their passion for the beautiful game.
They play in rain, sleet and snow. They play in blistering heat and in freezing cold. The young and the old. The rich and the poor. They play in their cleats, their running shoes, their bare feet. They play.
Miracles happen every day, dear readers, and you would be astounded how often they happen on the soccer pitch. And every time I think that I have seen too much intolerance and poor sportsmanship to keep on acting as a guardian of the spirit of the beautiful game and it’s laws, I witness people, young people, old people come together and do things that would melt your heart, and I fall in love with the game all over again.
And despite all the nights when I come home drenched in sweat, fresh off of an earful of spite and hatred and intolerance, the slings and arrows of the defeated who, as always, need to do their utmost to make me miserable as the price of their defeat, as if the $15 the match put into my pocket is justification to be made into human toilet paper, I am honoured and privileged to count myself amongst those who have been entrusted to protect the spirit of the beautiful game and those who play it.
Now, despite the controversy regarding the goal that the match official, Dr. Felix Brych awarded, according to FIFA’s laws of the game, once he blew his whistle to resume play after the goal, it was no longer in his power to call it back. I can assure you however, dear readers, that no one is more upset and disappointed about it than he is.
If my word isn’t good enough to convince you, then fast forward to the 82nd minute of the match and look at the foul which the good doctor deemed worthy of a penalty kick. The penalty he awarded was soft. It was very soft. It was what some fans might call a make-up call. A weighting of his judgment in favour of the team he could not help but feel he had wronged by not spotting the ball going to the left of the goal post rather than the right, even though Dr. Brych was in nearly perfect position for the corner.
Dr. Brych was Behind and Wide of the play, at the top of the penalty area opposite his assistant with a clear view of the kick taker and the majority of the players on the pitch and ideally positioned to be facing the direction in which the play was headed. The corner did, however, get taken faster than he expected as he was in motion when it was struck, whereas in ideal circumstances, an official would normally be stationary at the time of the kick.
Though on instant replay, it may look as though he blew the call, most observers take for granted exactly how quickly the ball moves. Given the angle at which the ball was struck and where he was standing, the ball would have been, at best, a blur of white obstructed by the body of the goal-scorer. Given that the goal post is also white and the ball is moving at high speed, Dr. Brych had to rely on secondary indicators to determine the trajectory of the ball.
The net bulges. The ball is inside the net. Goal. He looks to his assistant, who like himself turns to make a sprint towards the center line, so he does what he has been trained to do and what he has done countless times before. He blows his whistle and trots towards the center circle, pointing to the spot for a restart in play. Did he make the right call?
I have a better question. Would you have done better in his place?
Prior to reading this article, were you aware of ANY of the determinant factors involved?
The proper signal for a goal? The responsibilities of the match official? Of the ground staff? Did you know the officiating team is supposed to check the netting not once, but twice? Did you know whose job it was to repair it? Were you even aware of what the laws of the game were, or did you, in you ignorance, refer to them as “The rules”. Football doesn’t have rules. It has laws.
Now you know.
You know that, of the THOUSANDS of tiny little details which the referee is responsible for DURING the match, a single little torn thread, less than an inch across, could make Dr. Felix Brych, a FIFA level referee, the object of more scorn and disdain than he is duly deserving of from thousands if not millions of football fans, from their comfortable seats in the peanut gallery.
As for the soft penalty kick, since most fans ignorance is best on display when it comes to the awarding of penalties, allow me to explain why the penalty he awarded was soft and, indeed, is likely the only part of that match that a FIFA assessor might legitimately be displeased with.
Firstly, the ball was won, and cleanly, by the defender. Once possession of the ball has been claimed by the defender, the onus is on the player who lost the ball to avoid contact with the player who has won it, not the other way around. One of the key factors in determining a foul is in asking the question “Who initiated contact?” The player who initiates contact should ALMOST never be awarded a foul, and the circumstances where they are to be awarded a foul are rare and exceptional.
Secondly, the contact between the two players took place JUST outside the box, the momentum of the players carrying them into it after the contact for which the foul was called had taken place. After most stoppages of play, play is to be restarted where the offense took place. Since the contact took place just outside the box the restart should have been a free kick at the edge of the box.
Granted, the contact took place mere inches outside the box, but referees at all levels are expected to be able to differentiate fractions of an inch from 30 + meters away; it’s part of the job and you would be surprised how good you get at it when you practice. Shifts as the referee’s assistant (commonly referred to as a linesman) are excellent practice at judging inches, and fractions thereof, from up to 60 meters away. If you`ve got good eyes and strong concentration, it’s not as hard as you think.
Now, there is a precedent in the Bundesliga where a match was replayed due to a goal which had been awarded in error between Bayern and Nürnberg back in the late 1970s. But, hold on a second here. If they DO replay the match, is it fair to Leverkusen, who would lose a well-earned 1 – 0 lead at half-time prior to the genesis of all this controversy, because of a defect in the nets that Hoffenheim provided for the match?
I really don’t know, dear readers. There are a lot of grey areas in this scenario, but there are a few things I can tell you for certain.
Firstly, that the Laws of the Game state that once the match official blows the final whistle, the match is over and the results are final. Individual leagues and competitions are permitted to have appendixes which modify or adjust the Laws of the game and/or expand upon them. The guiding principle within FIFA, however, is that final results are just that; final.
You do not castrate the match official by second-guessing his or her decisions, regardless of how ludicrous, negligent or (from an outside perspective) heinous and questionable they may be or the implications of the result simply because of the precedent it would set.
If ONE result is subject to appeal and over-turning after the fact, then EVERY result is subject to appeal and over-turning after the fact. There is enough complaining, petitioning, and controversy in football already. Not only would such an over-turning of the result constitute a vote of no-confidence in Dr. Felix Byrch and be a serious blow to his officiating career, but it would send a frightening message to all footy refs around the globe that they were disposable heroes to be discarded the moment they make a mistake. I assure you, dear readers, if that were the attitude that FIFA would take, then they would be out of referees within five years.
The one thing that makes all the training, all the grief, the stress, the death threats and insults, the mixed messages from instructors and scathing assessments, the money spent on travel, uniform and equipment and the meager, meager pay cheques worth while to footy referees everywhere is the fact that FIFA does their officials one simple courtesy; they respect our autonomy and they stand behind our decisions made on the pitch, regardless of how ludicrous they may be. (My thoughts stray to a certain Women’s World Cup match and an absolutely ludicrous call against a goalkeeper for handling the ball for more than six seconds.)
If THAT decision was not over-turned and that game not replayed, then will they really replay an early season match that, in the grander scheme of things, will not be definitive in determining the fate of either Hoffenheim OR Leverkusen’s season? If I had to make a wager, I would wager quite definitely in the negative. Though I feel for the Hoffenheim fans, just as I feel for the players who have, rightly or wrongly, perceived themselves victimized by any and every one of my free kicks, goal kicks, corner kicks, throw ins, kick ins, penalty kicks, off sides and goals I have ever awarded, called back, or not called at all, there is a “Law 19” in FIFA’s Laws of the Game that is not in the book and is as applicable to referees, players, managers and fans that I am willing to share with you all and it is this.
Shit happens. You have a better chance at success, both in the immediate future, the long term and everywhere in between if you follow the advice of some of the sagest football minds I have ever met, be they players, coaches or referees. “Get on with it”. You have a better chance of success if you leave it in the past and move on.
My sincerest sympathies to 1899 Hoffenheim, Koen Casteels the Hoffenheim goalkeeper, Hoffenheim fans and their ownership group. I truly wish that I, or anyone else, could help you in your hour of need, but sadly enough, you’re going to have to help yourself. For instructions on how to do so, please refer to Law 19 as stated above.