The biggest football referee blunders in history
Referees are a very important part of football, without them, games would be chaotic and we wouldn’t see such great matches. However, in spite of the fact that they’re a vital part of the sport, they are little appreciated and valued by fans of the beautiful game given that whatever they do, somebody is always going to be unhappy. We know they do a difficult job and, like everyone else, they are human and they make mistakes. Some are these are funny and others are absolutely bizarre but throughout the history of the game, football referees have made huge blunders and in this article we’re going to remind ourselves of some of the most unforgettable ones.
The Hand of God
This is possibly the most famous handball goal in football history. The setting was the 1986 World Cup Quarter Final match in Mexico between Argentina and England. It was the 6th minute of the second half when Diego Maradona scored the first goal of the match with a controversial handball. He took advantage of a ball that ended up in the England penalty area, after an attempted clearance from the English midfielder Steve Hodge. As the world knows now and as has been shown by photos, Maradona jumped up with goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who was attempting to punch the ball out, helping the ball into the net with his left hand without the infringement being spotted by the referee.
That game passed into football history also because of Maradona’s so-called ‘Goal of the Century’, after his famous slalom from the halfway line later in the same match. In 2007 Messi scored a very similar handball goal against Spain in Camp Nou, a move which was almost a carbon copy of Maradona’s and also scored with the left hand.
Thierry Henry’s goal against Ireland
France qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa at the expense of the Republic of Ireland. In the second leg of the playoff in the qualifiers, the Ireland team surprised everyone with its performance in Saint Denis, taking the match into extra time. But at the end of the first part of extra time, French striker Thierry Henry took advantage of a commotion in the Irish goal area to clearly use his hand to control the ball, providing an assist to his team mate Gallas, who went on to score.
The match officials refused to listen to the protests of the Irish players and thanks to this handball goal France qualified for the World Cup in South Africa. However, the country went out of the competition at the group stage and discontent in the French camp resulted in a dispute between the players and manager Raymond Domenech.
Phantom Goal in 1966 World Cup Final
England has one World Cup title in its trophy cabinet – a title it won controversially in the tournament played on home ground in 1966. They faced Germany in the final and the match was decided by a goal in extra-time that passed into history because it didn’t cross the line.
The English striker Geoff Hurst, who scored the controversial goal, acknowledged years later that the ball had not crossed the line, but Tofik Bakhramov, the linesman who said the goal was valid despite having good sight of the incident, made the decision that led to England being crowned world champions at Wembley on 30 July 1966. As you can see in the video, which was taken from the same position of the linesman, the ball did not fully cross the line.
The Kuwait-France scandal in the 1982 World Cup in Spain
On 21 June 1982 there was a dispute in the José Zorilla stadium of Valladolid the Group D match between Kuwait and France took place on the second day. It turned out to be a game that would pass into history because of the referee and a maverick spectator. Ten minutes from full time, at which point France was winning 3-1, the French player Alain Giresse scored to take the match to 4-1. However, the Kuwaiti players protested that they had not tried to defend the move because they had heard a whistle that came from the stands.
Into the drama came Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, brother of the Emir of Kuwait and President of the Kuwait Football Association at the time’, who was watching from the stands. He summoned the players to leave the pitch and then went down to speak to the referee, Miroslav Stupar. The Spanish Police did not stand in his way and after a short conversation between Al-Sabah and Stupar, the referee decided to reverse his own decision and the goal didn’t stand. We don’t know what took place in that conversation, but in the end France went on to score a fourth goal a few minutes later and ended up winning the match. You can see what happened in this Canal Plus video: