We are very quick to condemn crass refereeing howlers, even though we all make mistakes at work.
In the 2014 World Cup, we have already seen woeful decision-making. My own experience is limited to two glaring examples:
* the atrocious judgement shown in the very first match when, instead of showing the yellow card to Fred for straightforwardly cheating with his dramatic fall after Lovren barely touched him, the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded Brazil the penalty that changed the game against Croatia
* the Italian ref Nicola Rizzoli’s failure to spot and punish the absurd Diego Costa dive that led to Spain taking the lead from the penalty spot. Justice was, at least, done in that game
And today? A man I’d never heard of but who is reportedly regarded by some as the best ref in the world, Ravshan Sayfiddinovich Irmatov, from Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, did something that the editor ofSalut! Sunderland heartily applauds. It was the reason the game between Switzerland and Ecuador finished with a result other than a draw.
It all came in the final minute of stoppage time. A great tackle by Valon Behrami stopped a probable last-gasp winner for Ecuador. As Behrami sprinted forward having won the ball, he looked like being flattened by a horrendous and apparently cynical defender’s block.
Instead, he kept his footing to steam on. And Irmatov – making up handsomely for an earlier failure to play an important advantage to the Swiss – instantly waved play on. Bravo that man.
The ball went out left and, from the resulting cross, Haris Seferovic stormed into the box to bury it.
Switzerland deserved the win, despite some truly appalling final balls that broke up a string of attacks and handed the breakaway initiative to Ecuador.
That they did win, with seconds to spare, was a result of Behrami’s timing, resilience and vision. And Irmatov’s magnificent piece of refereeing.