Johannesburg - I have been asked many times, in fact more times than I can remember, if I’ve ever regretted giving a red card. Let me state here and now and without equivocation and in capital letters – NEVER.
I have, however, often regretted not giving a red card, and there weren’t many of those.
I generally relied on my gut instinct and, while I’m sure I got one or two wrong, most of them were warranted.
Players during my time in the middle with the whistle knew that they had done wrong and were expecting the inevitable.
But I never held any grudge against a player whom I had red-carded. What happened on the field stayed on the field and, to this day, I meet guys who incurred my wrath and we shake hands and relive “olden” times with humour and fond memories.
I’m sure at the time they were upset and wanted to “kill” me (I use that word metaphorically because I don’t think they would actually carry out their innermost thoughts).
That couldn’t be said for some of the supporters of various teams.
I remember one such game in Tembisa when Arcadia Shepherds were playing Orlando Pirates.
I had disallowed three goals for Pirates and the fans were really irate.
It’s just as well I couldn’t understand their language, but, from the sounds of it, it wasn’t pretty and I’m sure they weren’t asking about my health or family – far from it.
Deshi Bhaktawer was in goal for Arcadia and I had awarded a free kick to Pirates. Bashin Mahlangu was lining up to take the free kick on the edge of the penalty area and just to the right of the goal.
I remember distinctly saying to him to wait until I had counted out the 10 yards (9m) and move the wall back the required distance. I also instructed him not to kick the ball until I had blown the whistle. In fact, I actually pointed to the whistle so there was no doubt about my instructions.
As I was stepping out the 10 yards, and with my back to Bashin, the ball whizzed past me. Suddenly, I was almost felled by Deshi as he raced off his line and collided with me. The ball entered the net.
The fans were crazy with delight as they thought it was a goal. At that time, Pirates were top of the log and going for the title, so it was a bitter pill for the fans to swallow.
I ruled out the goal and proceeded to caution (yellow card) Bashin for taking the free kick before I blew the whistle.
Let me state here and now that it is not necessary for a referee to blow his whistle for a free kick to be taken. All he has to do is give a signal – even with his hand – but, in this instance and because of the close proximity of the ball to the goal, I said that the free kick was not to be taken until the whistle was blown.
The game ended 1-1, much to the dissatisfaction of the Pirates fans. They definitely wanted to kill me – of that I have little doubt.
Coming to the end of the game, I signalled to the assistant referee furthest from the dressing room on the other side of the pitch to make a run for it and I blew the final whistle.
We had just made the safety of the changing rooms when all hell broke loose outside. If it had not been for the excellent security of then National Soccer League guys and John Shiburi, in particular, I have no doubt that a tragedy would have occurred that day and I probably would not be writing this column.
Some of the trials and tribulations of refereeing.
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