Brazil were through to the semi-final of the U-17 World Cup after a come-from-behind win over a sluggish German team. The capacity crowd in Kolkata were entertained to the hilt. On one side of the pitch, the Brazilian players danced with the fans, while on the other, Germany coach Christian Wueck, along with his dejected players, turned on referee Jair Marrufo.
At the post-match conference, Wueck entered the room in disbelief. Flinging his accreditation card on the table, he said,"Well, you saw the game, didn’t you? You should be asking him (referee) the question. I think the referee is responsible for the result.” The German coach was clearly not ready to accept the defeat as he felt cheated. "There is no problem in losing a game but the way we lost it was hard to digest," he added.
Germany took the lead through a penalty from captain Jann-Fiete Arp, but Wueck insisted that his side was denied yet another penalty before Paulinho's 77th-minute wonder goal sealed the deal for Brazil. There was a bit of pushing and shoving as the junior Nationalmannshaft looked tired in the second half. Brazil dominated the proceedings in the second half, but amid the chaos, Brazil forward Lincoln kicked Josha Vagnoman. The German winger did not react but referee Marrufo seemed okay with the tackle.
When Weverson scored the equaliser in the 71st minute, an elbow to one of the German players went unnoticed. "Look at Jan Boller’s face, just below the eye. It is cut. This was just before the winner. Before the tournament started, teams were spoken to by officials and it was said any elbow or hand to the face would fetch a red card. But nothing happened tonight," fumed Wueck.
Whether it should have been a red card or not is debatable, but if the officials had made sure that they would brandish a red card if they noticed reckless challenges, then they should have just stood by it. For example, the referee did not think twice to send Liverpool's Sadio Mane off after a horrific high boot on Manchester City's Ederson in a Premier League contest last month. Ederson ended up needing eight stitches.
The referee was yet again under scrutiny in Sunday's FIFA U-17 World Cup quarter-final when Arp was clearly brought down, but Maruffo allowed the play to go on. But look at it this way. Brazil had won the Fair Play Award at the U-15 and U-17 South American Championships. Coach Carlos Amadeu does not want his side to be known for pushing and kicking opponents. “Brazil are here to play football. We have just one yellow card going into this match," said Amadeu.
A day after Weuck accusations, FIFA stood by the match officials, saying a beaten team should learn to accept the loss. "I always think that in life we have to learn to accept loss and respect (a decision). Mistakes are part of the game. Referees take a decision based on what they see and what they think. And they do it in an honest way," Massimo Busacca, who is the head of FIFA refereeing department, said on Monday.
However, this is not the first time in the ongoing tournament that the coach of a national side has targeted the referee in front of the media. Niger coach Ismalia Tiemoko didn't look happy with the refereeing decisions in their Group B clash against Spain. "People often say, I don't joke a lot. But in this match (Niger versus Spain), there are a lot of things to joke about," Tiemoko's said of the refereeing. “Normally it isn’t my habit to criticise the referee. Spain are far more experienced, while this is our first time (at a World Cup). Their players were protected a lot by the referee,” he added.
Niger dominated their Spanish counterparts in the opening 10 minutes, restricting Santi Denia's Colts from playing their trademark tiki-taka football. In those first few minutes, Niger were in control of their passes and were outmuscling the Spanish players.
However, Niger's style of play was illegal according to the referee's book, who gave away free-kicks in Spain's favour. “Every time the game was in (our) hands, something went against us from the referee. It would have been a more equal (game) had some of these decisions gone in our favour. We weren’t allowed to play our game by the referee.” Tiemoko stated before adding,"In all the cases when we were in physical contact with Spain, fouls were given against us, which pushed us back a bit. The referee must respect our style of football."
During the all-African quarter-final between Mali and Ghana, the Ghanaian coach Fabian Samuel had questioned the referee's decision to rule out Sulley Ibrahim's equaliser, which should have stood. However, Algerian referee Medhi Charef disallowed the goal for what he considered a foul on Fode Konate by Kudus Mohammed in the build-up to the goal."We did everything right, we scored a perfect goal and it was disallowed. I don't know what to say again."
So we have had three incidents now in which coaches of the national teams have targeted match officials for their poor referring, which more or less cost their side an important win. In a sport like football, where one refereeing decision can change the outcome of the entire match, the officials must keep in mind that they have to adhere to the rules, irrespective of age groups. The result could have been different for Ghana and Germany had the officials been a bit more careful. Lastly, the 'referees are humans too' statement should be buried before the video assistant referees (VAR) completely takes away the essence of beautiful game we all love.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2017 20:40:55 IST