A wildly subjective analysis of World Cup referees based on their previous mistakes
No World Cup would be complete without a heavy helping of missed hand balls, blown offsides calls, unpunished loogie-hocking, and sharp, flying elbows. This year will be no different: FIFA recently released the list of referees who will be officiating the tournament and, because they all make mistakes and those mistakes are repeated on television, we were able to find several highlight reel-worthy howlers. Here, in no particular order, are some of their greatest hits.
1. Svein Oddvar Moen, 35, Norway
One of the world’s premier referees, Moen started working international matches in 2005, when he was just 26 years old. But not even the best of the best get everything right. In the 64th minute of a 2011 Champions League match between Dinamo Zagreb and Real Madrid, Marcelo headed a ball toward Cristiano Ronaldo. When Ronaldo extended his right foot to trap the ball, Dynamo’s Jerko Leko came through with a running clearance, knocking the ball out of bounds. Ronaldo’s scream was audible on television as he spun to the grass in obvious pain.
Replays showed Leko hadn’t touched the ball at all, but Moen signaled for a throw-in. Ronaldo finished the game with a bloody gash on his ankle and later required stitches. Just 8 minutes later, Moen gave a second yellow card to Marcelo after the Brazilian received a pass in the box from Ronaldo, put a nasty move on Leko, and looked to have been fouled. Moen saw it as a dive. Ronaldo later called Moen’s work “terrible” and “embarrassing.”
2. Bjorn Kuipers, 41, Netherlands
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na3jBn2jd Kuipers oversaw last summer’s Confederations Cup final and worked the Champions League final on May 24, which presumably makes him a candidate to ref the World Cup final in July. In other words, Kuipers is a top ref, but he also has a reputation for waving off penalties and is one of two refs to have failed to see Luis Suárez bite an opponent. This was before the more famous incident in which Suárez bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in the arm during a 2–2 draw at Anfield in April, 2013. In 2011, when Suárez was still at Ajax, he sank his teeth into the chest of PSV’s Otman Bakkal. Replays show Kuipers looking right at Suárez but failing to spot the infraction.
3. Ben Williams, 37, Australia
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY6obxxDzsA Williams makes this list not for one specific incident but an entire body of work. There was the three-red, 13-yellow-card, one-blown-penalty match (highlights above) that he refereed in the 2010 Asian games. (That game’s first red card occurred in the 24th minute, when Williams expelled a player for kicking a ball away when the play was dead.) And there have been a series of domestic, A-league matches for which Williams has been heavily criticized. A 2012 derby between Central Coast Mariners and the Newcastle Jets left him reportedly on the verge of being fired, as did a controversial 2–2 draw earlier this year between the Wellington Phoenixes and the Melbourne Heart.
4. Enrique Osses, 40, Chile
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY6obxxDzsA Osses has had perhaps the most colorful career of any ref due to appear in Brazil this summer. In 2005, he sent off Unión Española goalkeeper Ignacio “Nacho” González, who reacted by slapping Osses’s face, knocking the ref to the ground. (Nacho claims he merely put his hand to Osses’s chest and pushed.) Osses’s most controversial mistake came during a Copa Libertadores match between Nacional de UruguayandBarcelona de Guayaquil when he showed Nacional’s Alejandro Lembo two yellow cards but failed to send him off until realizing his mistake four minutes later. Perhaps not as bad as Graham Poll yellow-carding the same player three times in the 2010 World Cup, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
5. Dr. Felix Byrch, 38, Germany
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gov__4z4-rI Of all the referees working the 2014 World Cup, nobody can claim a higher-profile mistake than Brych, who holds a doctorate in law and has refereed in the German Bundesliga since 2004 and internationally since 2007. Like Moen and Kuipers, Brych is considered one of the world’s sharpest referees, but last year, on October 18th, he awarded Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling a goal that never was. The ball went through a hole in the side netting, coming to rest inside the goal without ever crossing the goal mouth. The non-goal was decisive: Leverkusen went on to beat Hoffenheim 2–1. Dubbed the Phantom Tor by the German media, it was arguably the most controversial moment in the entire Bundesliga season. German pundits wondered if the mistake had cost Brych his chance to ref the World Cup list, but the incident may have ended up hurting Stefan Kiessling’s chances at making a World Cup roster more than it did Brych’s. Kiessling, a goal scoring machine, has been consistently overlooked by Germany coach Joachim Löw, much to the German public’s dismay. The player’s failure to come clean about the phantom tor eroded much of the public support he had enjoyed prior to the incident, and although he finished the season injured, it’s enough to make you wonder if, after the phantom tor, he ever really had a chance. While Brych will be in Brazil this summer, whistle in hand, Kiessling will probably be watching from a tropical island somewhere.