Referring to Referees with References
We were playing Westfield. I can’t remember which Tooting player it was that went down. This was due to the pints in the stand and indeed the pints before the game, where I’d shown up at our normal meeting place and ordered a pint to find out @messerbest was in another pub and I wouldn’t waste a pint like that so I downed it and met him elsewhere. But that’s beside the point.
A Tooting and Mitcham player went down injured outside the opposing gaffers technical area. And then it happened. The Westfield manager stuck his finger in his own mouth, give it a big lick, and then stuck it into the ear of the Tooting player, sat on the pitch in front of him. An opposing manager. Wet Willying. One of our players.
I don't know if the referee saw it or like the rest of us was so shell shocked by what he’d just seen that he decided it was easier to ignore it. I don’t know if the FA have a Wet Willy specific policy. I don't know which of the disciplinary rules of the game dishing out a Wet Willy comes under.
Wouldn’t see that in the Prem, would you?
I have mixed feelings about referees. Especially when it comes to those that ply their trade further down the pyramid. There was the game at our place against League Winners Hayes & Yeading where the record shows we lost 3-1. Tooting had 2 stonewall penalty appeals denied that day, whereas Hayes were gifted 2 soft penalties. On another day, with another ref we’d have won that. Likewise there have been games where opposition players have ended up returning to the dressing rooms for offences that the ref in my 5aside league wouldn’t have even blown for.
There’s those refs you conjure up whole backstories about. There’s a linesman I’ve seen a few times with long blond hair tied back that I’ve taken to referring to as Robbie Savage, simply because of his hair. (It’s not big and it’s not clever but it keeps me entertained. Probably because I’m not big and not very clever.)
But because I call him that, I’ve managed to convince myself that he loves himself as much as Robbie Savage loves himself, and that anytime he makes a bad decision it’s just because he’s so up himself that he loves the attention because - you know - Robbie Savage. And that’s probably not true.
There’s the linesman who actually ran the line in that game against Hayes I mentioned, who absolutely had to be in his mid 60’s. And when he is 5 yards off the defence and calls a ball offside I say to my mate “Why is someone of his age a lino? How’s he meant to keep up with a load of men in their 20’s?” Then I realise he’s 5 yards behind them at a full sprint and I probably couldn’t keep up with them either. In fact, he did well to keep up with them at all.
And I guess this sums it up for me. To be reffing in this division week in, week out, you have to love football surely? I’m not here to dissect what type of absolute sociopath decides they want to spend an hour and a half every week running about in the rain with managers, fans and players in their ear. But they’re hardly doing it for the money, are they? And realistically, barely any of them are doing it for the prospect of moving up the leagues. They’re not getting the hours of training and video feedback like a professional referee is. t’s not like there's a whole workforce of referees ready to replace them if they don't decide to show up, although I guess there is a Footlocker in Tooting so you could just borrow a ref from there?
Unlike football, there’s no referees in life. People call politics a game but it isn't one. There is no referee and the teams make up the rules as they go along. You can't cry foul or offside in politics or in life. But you can while watching football. You can shout and scream and be confused, or in the case of the Wet Willy incident, sit open mouthed with tears running down your eyes from laughing.
Hand on Heart I can't believe any referee would be making decisions against a team on purpose. What would be the point? So although I may sit in the stand and criticise the ref in the heat of the moment, and sometimes later that evening or week after the game, I also recognise that football wouldn’t be football without them.