In a recent English Premier League (PL) game between Manchester City and Chelsea, referee Mike Dean engaged in what I would call “showboating”.
Now, to the uninitiated, that means acting or gesticulating outside what would, or could, be called the norms of signalling to indicate a free kick, a goal kick, a corner kick and so on.
I’m sure you’ve seen enough games to know and understand what I mean.
Players engage in this practice all the time particularly, but not exclusively, in South Africa.
There were two instances in this game that I felt were not necessary and could, in my humble opinion, only bring ridicule to the difficult job of match officiating.
The first was when Dean correctly awarded a penalty kick to Manchester City.
It wasn’t awarding the penalty kick that was the issue, but the way in which it was done.
Picture the scene – a direct free kick incident occurs inside the penalty area and that means the referee points to the spot. I’ve done it many, many times. In this instance, the referee bent his knees in a crouched position and dramatically pointed to the spot.
Nothing wrong with this, you might say, but if you saw the incident and the way it played out, it was, in my opinion, uncalled for and unnecessary.
Now, not everyone agrees with me and some have even said that I’m being too petty and pedantic. I disagree and, in fact, I felt it was, in some way, heaping more misery on the team being penalised – Chelsea. Incidentally, I’m not a Chelsea fan.
The second one was at the end of the game. Sergio Agüero, the prolific Argentine and City forward, had scored a hat-trick on the way to City winning the match 6-0. Tradition has it that, when a player scores three goals, he gets to keep the match ball, which is generally handed over to him by the referee at the end of the game.
Dean, in his wisdom, decided to conceal the ball behind his back under his officiating top. There is also a tradition that players shake hands with the match officials. Now you only need one hand to shake another person’s hand. Dean decided to put the ball up the back of his shirt. My suspicion (being the cynic that I am) is that he saw the mobile cameraman circling and thought he would get some media “mileage”, which he ultimately did.
In fairness, the referee’s actions did get some positive feedback from the scribes and commentators, but I felt it was definite showboating and tantamount to putting the spotlight on himself, though he is merely an arbitrator with a job to do.
I remember a former colleague of Dean’s also engaging in such antics, and having the self-belief that he and referees are loved by all.
Former PL referee Jeff Winter decided he would blow the final whistle on his last game when he was at the “kop” end of Anfield, home to Liverpool Football Club.
He said in his book that the crowd broke into spontaneous applause and he took this to mean that it was in appreciation of his efforts and contribution to refereeing. Did he not for one minute think that it might be the opposite – meaning they were glad to see the end of him? Yeah, I know, I’m a cynic.
Refereeing is not easy at the best of times. You are nobody’s friend and are, for the most part, a necessary evil. No matter what decision you make, someone will take exception to it.
Referees are there to arbitrate between two competing teams and should conduct themselves with dignity and professionalism, and leave the showboating to anyone else who wants to partake in it.
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