Whistle blowers and Seoul brothers

Tony Deyal
Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner

COMEDIAN JAY Leno bemoaned the fact that while he loves sports he has some problems. He is under six feet tall, so he can't play basketball. He weighs less than 200 pounds, so he can't play football. And he has 20-20 vision so he can't be a referee.

The present World Cup, which ended yesterday, proves Leno right about refereeing. Looking at the choice of referees, I finally figured out the FIFA criteria. If you love football, but can't quite understand the rules; if you have a strange, virtually insane, desire to run aimlessly around in the sun, rain, wind and snow; if you love the sound of verbal abuse and a whistle; if you have severe vision and concentration problems; if you can't tell your offside from your onside; and if you find it hard to make decisions, and whenever you do you're always wrong, you too can be a FIFA referee and work for lots of money.

Some time ago, before the recent FIFA elections, a referee was completing his field of play inspection at a local park before a game when he stumbled across an old lamp. He picked it up, rubbed it, and out popped a genie. The genie said, "Well old chum, you released me from the lamp. However, I'm a one-wish genie so make your wish quickly or put me back." The referee thought about it and said, "I've always wanted to referee the World Cup Final but, although I have the talent, they've never given me the opportunity. I'm much too fair you see. Could you turn me into a FIFA referee, give me $10,000 per game, and the World Cup Final to referee?" The genie laughed and said, "That's impossible. That is the toughest task in the world. Someone else has already been chosen. Think of another wish."

The referee gave in with good grace and tried to think of a really good wish. Finally, he said, "What you've told me, and what I already know, point to the fact that football will never improve unless we get rid of Sepp Blatter and his gang. They've all been accused of corruption and I get the feeling they choose referees who will do as they're told. My wish is for the FIFA leadership to change." The genie with a hollow laugh conceded, "All right, who would you like as your Assistant Referees?"

Referees have always been held in very low esteem. When England celebrated its victory over Argentina, three strangers arrived at the hotel and demanded admission. "Let's see your invitations mate," said the England Assistant Coach in charge of the festivities. "We haven't got any invitations," said one of the men. "We're friends of the referee." "Get out of here," said the official. "Whoever heard of a referee with three friends?"

In fact, if referees have a place in society, it is not here on earth. The Devil was constantly challenging St. Peter to a game of football, but the wily St. Peter refused until one day, while walking around heaven, he discovered that quite a number of international footballers had entered the 'pearly gates.' "I think I'll arrange to play that game after all," he said to Satan. "We have a great number of international soccer stars in heaven at the moment from which to select a winning team." "You'll lose, you'll lose!" taunted Satan. St. Peter was curious and furious. He asked sarcastically, "What makes you so sure we'll lose?" "Because," laughed Satan sardonically, "we have all the referees down here."

I understand that the situation has changed since then. One late evening a man arrived at the Gates of Heaven where St. Peter greeted him and asked, "Before you are allowed to enter, you must say what you have done in your life that was particularly good." The man racked his, brains for a few minutes and then admitted that he hadn't done anything particularly good in his life. "Well," asked St. Peter, "have you done anything very brave in your life?" "Yes, I have," replied the man smiling, proudly. St Peter asked the man to give an account of his bravery. The man explained, "I was refereeing this important match between South Korea and Italy, in Seoul. The score was nil-nil and there was only one more minute of play to go in the second half when I awarded a penalty against South Korea." "Yes," admitted St Peter, "That was a real act of bravery. When did this take place?" "About three minutes ago," the man replied.


Of course, this did not really happen. I suspect that it is propaganda put out by FIFA and its chosen few referees. What I know for sure, and have learnt from the World Cup, is that football is a game in which a handful of men run around for one and a half hours watched by hundreds of millions of people who, like myself, can really use the exercise. I have also learnt that if your team is leading by one goal with 10 minutes to play, they'll be lucky to hang on for a draw. If your team is England, you'll have to take the midnight flight out. In fact, when Michael Owen, who had missed a chance in the Brazil-England game, told, a reporter that he had to cut short an interview because he did not want to miss his flight, the reporter retorted, "I hope you have better luck with the plane."

Another lesson is that if in the first round your team beats the defending champions, they will lose in the next round to an inferior team. The most important lesson of all is that injury time is about 3 minutes longer when you are winning than when you are losing, and that it is FIFA's referees who determine the length of injury time.

The FIFA official in charge of referees for the World Cup told them before the start of the games, "You are the best in the world and just for being here among the cream of the cream FIFA has decided to give you a special bonus. We would like you all to accept this cheque for $100,000." "Thank you very much," said the referees in unison. "That's very kind of FIFA." "And," continued the FIFA Official, "if you do as you're told for the rest of the tournament, Jack Warner will personally sign the cheques for you on July first."

Tony Deyal was last seen asking why referees have to be buried 12 feet while the rest of us require only six feet? Deep down referees are nice people.