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7 Unforgettable Referee Moments In Football

Ref Graham Poll

Football is a game not just about the players and the coaches, but also about the officials involved. The chief marshal on the football field is none other than the referee of the day. He or she gets to decide some important moments during the match. Basically, the referee and his assistants can help a team win a match or lose it, depending on the circumstances involved.

Over the years, we have seen some incredible referee decisions that have gone on to become legendary moments in the game. Here is a list of my top 7.

  1. Hand of God – Ali Bin Nasser

This experienced Tunisian referee was the man in charge when Diego Maradona scored the most popular goal of all time, the ‘Hand of God’. That infamous England vs Argentina match in 1986 will continue to rule the history books as one of the most unforgettable refereeing decisions ever. Only God knows how Mr Nasser managed to miss what the whole world saw – literally.

  1. The Treble – Graham Poll

During a 2006 World Cup game between Croatia and Australia, we saw another unforgettable referee moment. The match was being officiated by the highly respected Graham Poll, however, he made a mistake a ref should never make – he forgot. Poll forgot that he booked Croatian left back, Josip Simunic earlier and when he booked him for the second time, no red card was shown. It had to take a third booking, after the match had ended for the defender to be sent off. Graham Poll completed a yellow card treble that day.

  1. Play On – Jorge Larrionda

England was once again on the receiving end of a famous refereeing moment. This time in the 2010 World Cup and against Germany. The Englishmen were down by 2 goals within the first half and thought they had equalized when Lampard’s dink hit the crossbar and bounced inside the post before coming out back. However, ref Larrionda had a different opinion and waved play on. It was a howler and it cost the ref his job. The decision also led to the introduction of goal line technology, FIFA had had enough.

  1. Ghost Goal – Stuart Attwell

Stuart Attwell got his own moment of fame in 2008. The youngest referee ever to officiate a premier league game, Attwell also became the famous referee to give a goal instead of a goal kick. In the championship match between Reading and Watford, the ref and his assistant flagged for a goal when John Eustace’s strike went out a few yards wide of the target. It was an unbelievable decision as both officials were in good positions to see that the ball hadn’t gone in.

  1. Mistaken Identity – Andre Marriner

As a referee, you are supposed to be at alert at all times during the match, with all your 5 senses working. But in the 2014 premier league match between Chelsea and Arsenal, ref Andre Marriner found himself in a dilemma when he gave the wrong person a red card. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had handled the ball in Arsenal’s penalty area and a penalty was given. However when the ref wanted to show a card, he brandished the red card at the innocent Keiran Gibbs, much to the bewilderment of the player and even Chamberlain himself.

  1. The Rampage – Jose Manuel Barro Escandon

We have all heard about people going on rampage, some getting trigger happy while other go on a spending spree. But how many times have you heard about a ref that went on rampage? That is exactly what happened in a Spanish regional league match in 2009. The match between Recreativo Linense and Saladillo de Algeciras was finely poised at 1-0 when ref Barro struck. He sent a Recre player off nine minutes into the second half and the decision led to a massive on-pitch brawl. The match had to be abandoned, but ref Barro wasn’t done. Barro was so infuriated about losing control of the match that he marched into the dressing rooms and showed red cards to nine different players in each team. Talk about a card-happy ref.

  1. The Touch – Bibiana Steinhaus

With female referees getting more prominent in the game, the second tier league in Germany saw ref Bibiana Steinhaus handle a game in 2010. The match between Herta Berlin and Alemania Aachen went quite well but there was a funny moment in between. Hertha player, Peter Niemeyer had wanted to pat the back of the female referee but she moved unexpectedly and his hand landed on her right breast. While the player became understandably perplexed, trouble was averted as the ref decided to see the harmless and funny side of the act and continue the game without taking any action. To the relief of the player of course.


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