Like yesterday, for example, when I received my first red card in 36 years of playing. I reckon I’ve taken part in maybe 700-800 games without being ordered off the field. I’m overwhelmingly level-headed – if I’m the captain I tend to rush over to a hotspot to calm things down. If I’m not the captain, I’ll stand back with an air of detached superiority, perhaps shaking my head in the manner of one who knows so, so much better.
However, every player has his limits, and yesterday’s wildly, supremely, gobsmackingly incompetent match official broke all
|Oh referee, please|
set me free
In our league that means a ten-minute spell on the bench, but with the game almost over (and lost, in many ways thanks to the ref), and because I can’t play next Sunday in any case and can easily serve the suspension, I promptly delivered a frank assessment of his overall capabilities as a sporting arbitrator, verbally decorated with further extremities of language designed to enforce my cogent case that he was a disgrace to the game. And just in case his ears were as deficient as his brain, I added a hand signal for good measure (the one the Germans appositely call ‘der Stinkefinger’). This all lead to the red. It felt good. It felt right, even. All those years I’ve played without receiving the ultimate caution, and no one had ever told me how satisfying it was to embrace the nirvana of unbuckled dissent.
By the time I reached the bench I was already calm. At the end of the game, I apologised to my team-mates, who kindly countered with nothing but empathy. In truth, though, I’ve no regrets. Some people are just not born to referee, and they really need to be told. Mind, if I’m reffing and anyone dares to tell me the same thing, I’ll probably send them off. But only because I now know that it will fill them with a sense of profound liberation.