InGoodConscience

Uefa can't be allowed to turn a blind eye to scandalous officiating

The values of sport are darkened when we cannot trust in the integrity if what we see on the field.

If you believe that Real Madrid justly and fairly knocked Bayern Munich out of the Champions League quarter-finals this week, you are in a tiny minority.

The performance of referee Viktor Kassai was lamentable.

At best, the Hungarian made so many errors of judgment (and so many of them in Real Madrid's favour) that his credentials to take charge of matches of this consequence needs to be reassessed.

At worst, Kassai's actions should be scrutinised and, if found to be biased for whatever reason, he must be struck off the list of top class arbiters.


Referee Viktor Kassai shows Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal a yellow card for a foul on Isco during the Champions League quarter-final second leg. The midfielder was dismissed for a second yellow after a challenge on Real Madrid's Marco Asensio despite winning the ball. PHOTO: REUTERS

So far as we know, Uefa is not even investigating the issue. Nothing can be done if nothing is acknowledged to be wrong. What a pity we are in this conundrum.

Here was a game, in one of the world's most famed football cathedrals, the Bernabeu. Here was a contest that ought to be remembered for Cristiano Ronaldo becoming the first man in history to score 100 Champions League goals.

At worst, Kassai's actions should be scrutinised and, if found to be biased for whatever reason, he must be struck off the list of top class arbiters. So far as we know, Uefa is not even investigating the issue. Nothing can be done if nothing is acknowledged to be wrong.

His Real Madrid colleague Sergio Ramos on Tuesday joined an elite of players to appear 100 times in the tournament. And Real's adventurous Brazilian left back Marcelo played his 400th game for the club - and from the perspective of speed and energy and adventurous counter attacking, Marcelo can surely not have put in a better performance.

On the other side, Bayern's captain Philipp Lahm played his 112th, and last, Champions League game, and felt cheated.

Xabi Alonso, his team-mate who once played for Real Madrid, will also retire after this season. So Xabi and like Lahm, World Cup winners, depart the Champions League stage with rancour and injustice in their hearts.

This was a sad night at Estadio Bernabeu to be sure. It leaves Real to play Atletico Madrid in one semi-final, Monaco versus Juventus in the other.

Uefa wishes to move on without mentioning the calamity of refereeing. Bayern, and the rest of football, cannot.

"I have to say, I'm filled with unbelievable rage," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern's chairman, said at the post-game banquet for his team in Madrid.

"If we look at the entire game today, then I wonder: What do these associations actually do? We have six referees on the pitch, six referees! We have a yellow-red card that was not even a foul. We have two goals making the score 2-2 and then 3-2 that were offside and clearly offside."

He went on to say: "For the first time I have something like furious rage in me.

"Rage, because we were screwed over. We were screwed in the truest sense of the word."

There is some debate about the word "screwed". His actual word at the microphone was "beschissen" and it has cruder interpretations even than the word "shafted" that appeared in newspapers worldwide.

He is president of a club for which he won this tournament as a player. But he also chairs the European Club Association, which means he speaks for all major clubs, including Real, when negotiating regulatory matters with Fifa and Uefa.

He doesn't take losing in the best of spirits. He complained, bitterly, when Atletico Madrid eliminated Bayern from the Champions League last May, using the word "cheated".

On Tuesday, however, Rummenigge was far from the only embittered voice.

Michael Ballack, three times Germany's footballer of the year, tweeted: "Next Scandal!!! 1 metre offside. Is it actually a rematch now."

John Arne Riise, the former Liverpool and Roma and Norway full back, might be less partial.

"No red card. 2 goals offside! A referee decides who goes through," he tweeted. "A disgrace and this can't go on! We all make mistakes, but come on!!!!"

Inside the Bernabeu, the usually laconic Carlo Ancelotti who has coached Real and now Bayern, said: "The referee probably wasn't up to the task."

He arched that famous Ancelotti eyebrow when asked if there were more sinister things afoot.

"I don't think Real Madrid have any influence on referees," he answered. "The officials simply got it wrong. I had never been in favour of video technology, but I must admit it's necessary now."

Video assistant referees are on their way. Fifa president Gianni Infantino is pushing for key incidents - goals, red cards, mistaken identity and penalty awards - to be reviewed by action replays in time for the 2018 World Cup.

Real-Bayern crossed every boundary of that debate. But here's the irony: Kassai, a 41-year-old official who studied for his referee's badge at age 14, had been one of Fifa's most trusted arbiters.

He refereed the 2011 Champions League showpiece, Barcelona against Manchester United, at Wembley. And last year, he was the first ref to award a penalty on the basis of video playback during the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.

Some of his mistakes on Tuesday should not have needed video correction. Two of Cristiano Ronaldo's three goals were so blatantly offside that derision, bordering on suspicion, went around the world.

Yet Champions League referees have not just their two eyes. They have radio contact with a linesman whose job it is to be in line with the action. And Uefa employs an additional assistant standing close to the goalmouth.

And all of those failed to see that Ronaldo was metres offside, not once but twice?

Higher up the ladder of responsibility is Pierluigi Collina, the Italian former referee who is now Uefa's chief refereeing officer. Above him stands Angel Maria Villar, who has run the Spanish FA for almost 30 years, and has led the Uefa referees committee for decades too.

Someone, somewhere, should surely find out what went wrong at the Bernabeu, and inform the public accordingly.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Uefa can't be allowed to turn a blind eye to scandalous officiating'. Print Edition | Subscribe