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A Referee Decision – Reaction to Clattenburg allowing Nani’s goal against Tottenham

Lets be honest. Being a referee doesn’t look like too much fun. A career choice that never pushes too many friends in your direction, as well as weekly scrutiny up and down the footballing world that even Joey Barton wouldn’t feel comfortable with.

A character in the great screen production that we call football, who was originally casted as the handsome sheriff who never got in the way of the fun, but made sure things ran along smoothly. Is now more likely to be depicted by a spoiled sport villain who goes out of his way to ruin the happy ending.

This week was no different from most. Games where scheduled, teams played, goals were scored, and a referee blunder made the headlines. I am of course talking about Mark Clattenburg’s hand in Nani’s controversial goal against Tottenham. The controversy started when Nani broke through the Tottenham defence, wrestling with two Spurs defenders before falling over,in typical Nani fashion, to little contact. On his way down he grabbed the ball in the hope that it would attract Clattenburg’s attention (similar to Gerrard when he was ‘fouled’ by Gatusso in that final in Istanbul.) Clattenburg decided it was a null point and waved play on even though the ball had been handled. A confused Heurelho Gomes then rolled the ball out for a free kick to which Nani took advantage of (as it was technically a play on) and kicked the ball past Gomes into the open net.

The obvious mistake you can first point out is why Clattenburg decided a play on from a hand ball in the 6 yard box was a good idea. The second perhaps, why didn’t Nani get booked if he apparently dived? People will walk away from this, particularly Tottenham fans, believing its just another cover up to make sure Fergie’s boys got what they needed at Old Trafford. But lets look at this for a moment with a little less aggression.

You could go down one path and suggest Clattenburg made this thoughtful decision in the best interest of Manchester United, assuming he had some allegiance to the club, which is a path I wouldn’t personally suggest. These decisions happen every week, and even though some may disagree, they do happen equally to every club up and down the league pyramid.

I suggest we take a new approach to these lawful stewards of our beautiful game.When considering the consequences of these decisions we should look at how the referee may have been influenced and perhaps give a little consideration to the fact that these men are trying their best. The best referee’s apply a perfect balance between common sense and the letter of the law, but they also have to deal with the outside influences that surround them in the modern game.

We live in a world where every decision isn’t just reported by the national papers every morning, they’re tweeted by millions on Twitter, reviewed on Youtube by just as many, turned into humourous groups on Facebook, and analyzed to a professional degree by websites like Zonal Marking. Which isn’t a bad thing, in fact its healthy for the sport, but we’ve forgotten that these men are indeed just men. Prone to mistakes, prone to misinterpreting, and prone to being intimidated, they’ve been a vital part of this game and have functioned competently since its birth.

Football is a sport that despite having a fairly simple set of rules, is so passionately followed, that to expect a referee to leave himself vulnerable by applying his own common sense over the rules is a lot to ask of any character. His perspective of an incident will no doubt vary from the sixty thousand people standing behind him screaming in protest, or the countless millions watching at home.

The important point is whether or not he feels comfortable making those kind of decisions based on his professional experience or based on what will happen to him if he does not.

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  1. Tony Quirke

    5 November, 2010 at 20:49

    Nani was pushed down and did not dive as claimed. He thought he deserved a penalty and got hold of the ball only to find no penalty awarded and no whistle. Surely his handling of the ball was in no way deliberate and the referee made a similar judgement and he correctly let Gomes pick the ball up.
    Gomes clearly thought his side were entitled to a free kick although the whistle had not be blown and placed the ball on the ground only for Nani to put it in the net.
    The incident did nothing to enhance football but the referee acted in accordance with the rules as did Nani so lets leave it at that.

  2. Cusop of Mighty Spurs

    5 November, 2010 at 21:27

    What aload of old tosh

  3. Iain

    5 November, 2010 at 21:52

    I dislike Clattenberg but if he was helping Manu he would have just given the penalty surely.

  4. Joel

    5 November, 2010 at 22:01

    Tony you’re a ignorant monkey if you think Nanis handball wan’t deliberate…was a robbery same as always for us at Old Trafford

  5. anon

    5 November, 2010 at 22:20


    These decisions ALWAYS go in favour of Man Utd, never Spurs, as seen by the Spurs players being shooed away while Ferdinand was allowed to stand there

  6. Jon

    5 November, 2010 at 22:35

    Tony, I guess that you are a manure supporter because you are clearly looking at things through a red mist. Nani dives in the box, booking for simulation. Deliberate handball, booking. If you allow play on and the team offended against does not gain any advantage then play has to be brought back to the original incident and restarted with a free kick. I seem to remember the same referee disallowed a perfectly good goal by Pedro Mendes a few years back and one of his colleagues gave a penalty with Spurs leading because Michael Carrick falls over in the penalty box without being touched. Can there be a recurring theme here? Oops, perhaps I had better not say too much or the F.A. will have to put me on a charge!

  7. Indyfan

    5 November, 2010 at 22:49

    Nani has taken on the mantle of cheating crybaby from Ronaldo (whom I saw feign injury and fall to the ground when hardly touched in a game against Milan this week). Whenever Nani is tackled he appeals to the referee. Hopefully Ferguson will curb this ridiculous behavior, or Nani will be a laughing stock among PL referees.

    I do not think Clattenburg should referee any games between Spurs and Manure for at least five years. The bum decisions he has made are surely addling his brain for any such match in future.

    When we get a 60,000 seat stadium and a run of success in the Champions League, plus a whinging manager ( not that I want to see Harry leave, by any means) we will find more decisions going our way. Referees are human, and without recourse (which they should have and one day, deus volens, will have) to TV replays on appeal) they are going to fall prey to their instincts which will invariably follow the path of least resistance.

  8. me

    6 November, 2010 at 00:01

    hahahaha@ they do happen equally to every club up and down the league pyramid.

  9. delspurs

    6 November, 2010 at 00:01

    I hope the same situation happens again , but to Man.Utd instead then we’ll hear what all you manu fans be crying about. Why was Modric booked , but Ferdinand allowed to get involved in the conversation with the ref and linesmen. Manu always get away with these decisions.

  10. crag

    6 November, 2010 at 01:00

    man u. + nani + refs + fa = cheats imho!

  11. gere

    6 November, 2010 at 02:14

    viva united! the nani goal has no effect on the result. only talking effect.

  12. victor moey

    6 November, 2010 at 03:03

    let d BEAUTIFUL GAME flow.The refreeing decision lacked COMMON SENSE. Mrs rednapp would hv tucked it in. Let the beautiful game flow. When many were confused, common sense to prevail FAILED. Disgusting to millions of viewers.

  13. David Webb

    6 November, 2010 at 14:59

    The trouble is Gomes decided he was going to make the decision for the ref, and sadly lost out because of it.

    We tell the kids to always play to the whistle, which is what he should have done in this instance.


  14. not quirky

    7 November, 2010 at 19:42

    Got to award the Moron of the Month Award to Tony Quirke. Sorry also runs but no contest.
    “He thought he deserved a penalty and got hold of the ball only to find no penalty awarded and no whistle. Surely his handling of the ball was in no way deliberate” so he “got HOLD of the ball and it wasn’t DELIBERASTE. Tony Quirke-if found please returnn immediately to Care in the Community-njo reward. Stop it Tony-my ribs ache!!

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