World Wide Webb – FIFA choose final ref
So England will be represented in the final – though not quite as they hoped one month ago. Howard Webb has been given the biggest prize for officials in the game – the right to oversee the largest game in the sport. Was this the right decision by FIFA or another attempt to make the final even more eurocentric that it already is?
On July 7th 1974, when Webb was just a toddler in his native Rotherham, Englishman Jack Taylor led out West Germamy and Holland at the Olympiastadion in Munich for the World Cup Final in a match where he famously awarded two penalties in the opening half hour including one for the Oranje in the first minute of the game.
Following the match, Taylor was criticised by both sets of fans – Holland believing he had given Die Mannschaft a spotkick just to even things up and Germany thinking he had given the Dutch a penalty and wrongly called a Gerd Muller goal offside because of his supposed resistance to the nation as an Anglophile. Franz Beckenbauer had walked up to Taylor following his early penalty call and said ‘Taylor, you’re an Englishman’.
Whatever the legitimacy of his calls, Taylor denied any accusations of bias but the Dutch will certainly be hoping the presence of another British official will not be bad omen as they lost that 74 final 2-1.
The reality is, after Spain’s triumph last night, that we won’t see a repeat of the participants of that day though we came awfully close. Webb will also hope that no controversy trails him following the game after the arguments surrounding officials which has sadly cast a cloud over some of the stronger referee performances these finals.
But 36 years on from the events of Munich, Webb puts the icing on top of a career which began on the damp pitches of Yorkshire in 1989, balancing what little money his early officiating jobs pulled in with his job as a policeman – a profession that has no doubt helped when it comes to handling intense situations on the pitch.
Like many in refereeing professional, his original dreams of becoming a player were quashed by disappointing episodes following trials with his local clubs.
My father kept telling me that there was a desperate shortage of referees at the local level and that I ought to give it a go. I wasn’t interested at first as I was happy playing and watching but eventually, after some persuasion, I decided to give it a go. I was still only 18 and continued playing and refereeing for several years until I decided to fully focus on refereeing
He was following in his dad’s footsteps as Webb Sr. had officiated at a semi-professional level extensively. But like many young men growing up, Webb felt he could emulate and perhaps outdo his father’s success in the business. By 1993 he was an assistant referee in the Northern Counties East league (9th on the rung of England’s notoriously intricate pyramid system) and three years later he achieved the same position in the Football League itself.
After overseeing matches in the Football Conference, he was taking charge of league games 2000 and got the big jump into the Premiership itself in 2003. The seven years since have seen FA and Carling Cup finals, a Community Shield, Champions League games and plenty of internationals including two games at Euro 2008.
The opening game of that tournament which Webb officiated was not without dispute when he awarded hosts Austria a late penalty against Poland which they coverted to draw the match 1-1. Webb was criticised by Polish coach Leo Beenhakker who, in a phrase that could’ve been taken from recent weeks newspapers, said the call was as “inconsistent with the rest of the tournament”. Unlike this year, Webb was backed by the governing body with UEFA’s William Gaillard supporting his decision.
This May, he was made the offical for the Champions League final at the Bernebau where Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich 2-0 and Spain fans will be delighted to know that Mark Van Bommel was booked that day!
Earlier in the tournment, Webb was the man in the middle for Spain’s surprise loss to the stiff Swiss, before reffing Slovakia’s monumental 3-2 victory against former World Champions Italy and Brazil’s disposal of Chile in the second round. During those games, Webb has shown 17 yellow cards (the joint highest in the tournament and more than Ravshan Irmatov who has overseen two more matches than Webb) but no red cards.
The decision to appoint Webb will be somewhat of a redemption for English officials after Graham Poll’s embarassing “three-card trick” in the 2006 finals when he notoriously showed Croatia’s Josip Šimunić a trio of bookings in his country’s fiery loss with Australia, only sending him off with a red card following the final whistle when the player had complained to Poll, despite his remarkable luck in remaining on the field the whole 90 minutes.
Poll’s career never fully recovered and he recalls the ominous words said to him by the German president before the tournament as he addressed the officials “a decision you make could be seen by billions and remembered for decades”.
We should not forget Webb’s erstwhile assistants who are vital supports to the referee and come in the form of Michael Mullarkey and Darren Cann, a duo who have made some tight but ultimately correct calls so far.
Mullarkey revealed that as a preparation for the piercing noise of the vuvuzelas, FIFA had installed giant speakers blasting out the sound of the trumpets at training sessions.
But the suggestion that FIFA should install systems to help the officials has been welcomed by Webb. “I think the place most referees would like to get some help from technology is on goal-line incidents”, he said. “Some help there, either with video replays or some form of chip in the ball, in my view would certainly improve the game.”
Webb thrives under pressure however and he will not baulk at the prospect of such an important game. He at least appears to understand the qualities that will serve the man in black for the final well.
You need to be an excellent manager of people and be a good communicator. You also need lots of awareness and courage. But the main things for me are a desire to learn and work hard, and having belief in yourself.
Speaking shortly after the 2006 tournament, Webb said: “I only hope I get the opportunity one day to experience what must be the pinnacle of any referee’s career.” He’s got that opportunity now and with all eyes pointed to Johannesberg, there will be no room for error on Sunday but also a chance for Webb to prove himself as one the best officials with a strong performance.
Elsewhere Mexico’s Benito Archundia has been given the third-placed playoff between Germany and Uruguay and Saturday and we’ll be paying his dues and exploring that contest in more detail in a preview to be posted soon.
The video clip shows that the two calls in 1974 were correct. The first being as blatant as it gets.
Posted from United States
Hopefully Webb will keep the Dutch divers under control. He has shown he isn’t afraid to go to the book but I hope he is judicious in his use of cards in this game. Let the teams decide who wins.
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