Thoughts on the Referees: Day Eight

Two of refereeing’s old guard – Howard Webb of England (above) and Carlos Velasco of Spain – came out to play today. One performed well, and one performed…well….

Howard Webb (ENG), Colombia v. Ivory Coast
Webb reminded us today why he’s one of the best. He was nigh on perfect the first half, keeping his cards in his pockets but still controlling the game. He uses his size and intimidating visage to great effect, and today was no exception.

One of the big criticisms against Webb in the EPL has been his love of the “no call.” Webb will not, the talk goes, make a call that will change the game unless he has no other choice. While at times frustrating for fans, on the spectrum of refereeing flaws, I don’t find that all that horrible.

I definitely saw a couple of no calls, including a kick to the Colombian player’s shins by Yaya Toure that could easily have seen yellow. There was also a tackle by Mario Yepes in the box that a less lenient referee might have given as a penalty.

Have to say, though, his first yellow card (earlier in the second half) to Didier Zokora seemed a little soft in comparison. He gave only free kicks for worse than that.

I thought Howard looked good today. And he refereed pretty well, too! (See what I did there…?)

Carlos Velasco (ESP), Uruguay v. England
(Note: The referee is Spanish and uses Spanish naming convention. So, while his full name is Carlos Velasco Carballo, he is appropriately addressed as Velasco.)

This isn’t the best I’ve ever seen from CVC.

He blows his whistle a lot, true, but the game always felt close to boiling over. I saw a couple of times where the players, England in particular, outwardly questioned his decisions – rather belligerently at times – without ever receiving a response from the referee. He never looked fully in control.

In the 28th minute Godin committed a cynical foul to stop Daniel Sturridge’s advance that by all intents and purposes appeared to be a yellow. But Godin, Uruguay’s captain, was already on a yellow, and Velasco did not give it. It appeared (from behind) that Velasco went briefly for his pocket, but decided not to produce the card. I felt this was lenient, to say the least.

He had some good moments, though, including a beautifully played advantage, and he really settled down and regained control (just when I feared he was losing it) in the second half.

As for his ARs, at least one of them was dreamy in both senses of the word: good looking and also appeared to be asleep.

But I will say this, and I think it’s really important for Americans especially to know, he was not nearly as bad as ESPN made him out to be. Ian Darke and Steve McManaman are extremely biased toward England to the point of sliding into unprofessionalism. Check out this video of Darke attacking an injured Urugayan, and then getting major egg on his face when the player turned out to be unconscious.

But, yes, Velasco made some questionable calls, especially in the first half. I think that the non-yellow call, is particularly worrying, especially if he started to give it and changed his mind because the player was already on a yellow.

Joel Aguilar (SLV), Japan v Greece
I really like Aguilar. Good manner with the teams, and yet seems to fade into the background. And as we’ve said before, invisibility is a good trait in a referee.

Well, he was invisible until he produced a second yellow card for Greece’s captain, Kostas Katsouranis, just before the half. Both were professional fouls. I think Aguilar was right on the second yellow; in fact, I believe he had the courage to do what Velasco probably should have done.

ForTheWin has a great piece on the sending off here, complete with videos of both fouls.

He did, however, miss a bit of pushing and shoving from a frustrated 10-man Greece. His ARs probably should have spotted that for him.

All in all, though, I like this Salvadoran team.

Photo: AP/Fernando Llano


  • I couldn’t agree more with what you said about Velasco relating to ESPN. It was probably worthy of a second yellow, but it was not that clear-cut. Darke and McManaman were an abomination today. I normally love those two, but they were too much on this day – I even wrote about it on the bottom of my post about the game As always, I love reading your posts. Keep up the good work.


    • Right. It was verging on ridiculous. Everything Uruguay did was faking and diving; when England would do the exact. Same. Thing, we’d get Macca going “NAAAAAAH”

      And the injury… I actually thought Darke’s “apology” was a travesty. “I’m sorry if I implied that he wasn’t hurt.” You didn’t IMPLY it, asshat. You SAID it.


      • Wow, that’s pretty bad from Darke. It seems like this was a good game to choose to watch on Univision! (For the record, they thought it should’ve been a second yellow on Godin).

        Liked by 1 person

        • It was really bad. One of the most unprofessional displays I’ve seen from an announcer in a long time. Usually, the ESPN guys are just dopey…

          It should have been a second yellow. The only thing I can think is that Velasco didn’t want to influence the game so much so early…


    • And thank you for your sweet compliments. 🙂 And from a Gooner, no less!


    • I think it was pretty clear cut….this was no accident, the player deliberately hit the throat in order to prevent a counter. The German commentator was less fast with judgement and less biased, but he also seemed to be a little bit surprised that yellow wasn’t given.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I wasn’t all that impressed by Aguilar at first. His first yellow card was given to a Japanese player grabbing a handful of jersey. It was a very weak card and I would have preferred a Howard Webb approach here. Call a foul, absolutely, but a stern warning would have been enough. That led me to thinking that the first yellow given to Greek captain Katsouranis was another weak yellow, however, now that I’ve seen the replay, that challenge was extremely late and foolish. Why did he go for a ball that was already 3 or 4 feet away from him? Did he honestly think he had a chance? The .gif on the “FTW” makes the challenge look even more malicious and I wonder if there was even any intent whatsoever to play the ball. Good card Aguilar.

    Up here in Canada our World Cup broadcaster CBC uses the audio commentary from BBC commentators with no colour commentators. They are generally excellent. Also, I have no cable or satellite TV but streams all matches for no charge on the internet with full match replays on demand – all free. The quality is unbelievable and the replay and web player features are outstanding. Download Hola IP blocker and come check it out. On our local sports AM radio station we receive the ESPN radio feed and the commentators make the action seem really exciting. Definitely lucky up here.


  • I think FIFA’s decision not to issue early yellow cards is hampering the match control. Yellow card is a yellow card regardless of the minute. I believe some players have realized this and exploiting the situation. WC should not be like NFL where the officials in playoff games are asked not to use the yellow flags. The modern idea of Managing the Game instead of applying the LOTG to the letter has gone a bit to far. The commercial side of football is ruining the spirit of the Game.


  • I can’t believe with all the games you guys watch you think that second card was deserved. When a tackle can be argued that he went for the ball, you cannot give a second yellow and effectively decide the game so early in the match. We’ve seen worse fouls not even get a yellow card let alone a second yellow. Not only was not a good call, it was a horrendous call. He decided the outcome of the game on a questionable yellow. If this was Brazil vs Italy I guarantee you would all change your tune. But because this is Greece its ok. Ive been a referee now for twenty years, that call was ridiculous. Doesn’t really matter both these teams stink anyway.


    • I think you have to be careful with declarative sentences like this:

      “When a tackle can be argued that he went for the ball, you cannot give a second yellow and effectively decide the game so early in the match.”

      Really? Because I’ve seen lots of horror tackles where it “can be argued that he went for the ball”. Take the Callum McManaman leg breaker.

      Watching the video, you can certainly say that McManaman went for the ball and it was at about the same time in the match, but there’s nothing legal or good about that tackle, and the only reason he wasn’t punished is because the referee missed it. It was one of the darker moments of that season, but by your reasoning, it not only didn’t deserve a red but the referee – even had he seen it – CANNOT give it…


  • I agree with you on Ian Darke and McManaman. I normally like Steve and his accent with his reactions but they were both over the board yesterday. But I also think we need to give Darke a bit sympathy because he immediately apologized for what he said about the unconscious player. He said “I apologize if I have implied otherwise.”


    • He only apologized because he looked a fool, and the “if I implied otherwise” was weak. He didn’t imply it. He flat out said it.

      He needs to apologize right to the Uruguayans.

      These men are paid to give professional, unbiased commentary and he let his emotions and bias get the most of him. I have no sympathy.


      • He did look like a fool and it was too quick for him to react like an English fan rather than a professional commentator.


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