Ali Bin Nasser 1986
Never has two goals so fitfully defined the football culture of a nation. Diego Maradona’s second goal against England at the Azteca stadium in 1986 demonstrated in full flow Argentina’s passion for the aesthetic, the daring and the improvisation of la nuestra. Maradona’s weaving run epitomized it all. In fact it was a goal of such brilliance it could’ve defined the tournament.
Yet the game is cited far more for representing the win-at-any-cost side of Argentinean football, the reincarnation of Osvaldo Zubeldia’s underhanded Estudiantes side in the late sixties. Many commentators had already asserted that Carlos Bilardo’s side was essentially a one-man-team. Maradona famously rebuked this: God was also lending a helping hand. How a referee can judge that a diminutive Argentinean beat Peter Shilton at full stretch fairly is simply absurd.
Martin Hansson 2009
The Republic of Ireland has only qualified for three World Cup tournaments in its history. So imagine the furor around the 2010 World Cup play-off against France in which the Republic had more than matched their counterparts and were intent on taking the tie down to the wire. A giant-killing of epic proportions was on the cards. That is, until, Theirry Henry’s left-hand intervened and sent sales of hoover products bearing his name crashing. Raymond Domenech’s side was appalling throughout qualifying. In fact, it is remarkable Domenech was still in charge come that infamous November evening. He, more than anyone else, will be grateful the Hand of Gaul helped guide them through.
It’s difficult to chalk this decision up to referee error given the officials positioning. The inept linesman should harbor some of the blame, but even he, had his positioning been perfect, would have struggled to see the incident through the crowded penalty area. Considering the magnitude of the situation though, generating any sort of sympathy for the officials is a mountainous task. Martin Hansson should be thankful that Henry bore the brunt of the Irish vitriol.
Charles Corver 1982
French defender Patrick Battiston doesn’t remember much of the 1982 World Cup semi-final against West Germany. That’s because he was squished into a gooey mush by German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. As the Frenchman received the ball from Michel Platini, Schumacher darted towards him like an enraged bull and inexplicably flattened him with his twisting torso as the ball sauntered wide. It’s quite possibly the worst tackle ever in the history of the game.
Battiston was still unconscious moments later with a damaged back and several teeth absent from his gob. He later slipped into a coma before fully recovering. Amazingly, the sight of Battiston receiving oxygen and leaving the pitch on a stretcher failed to gain any sympathy from the referee. Charles Corver bafflingly refused to give a foul, let alone produce a card.
Graham Poll 2006
Graham Poll. In honesty, that sentence alone could be the pinnacle of referee foul ups. Graham Poll. The man must’ve hemorrhaged grey matter from an early age. He’s a stereotype of a stereotypical clumsy, bumbling, myopic referee. He beat his own personal best in 2006 by administering a trio of yellow cards to the same player in a World Cup group match between Croatia and Australia.
Josip Simunic, the player in question, was booked twice before being given a further yellow followed by a red for dissent at the final whistle. Fortunately, despite the tomfoolery, the draw earned Australia safe passage into the knockout stages. Poll, on the other hand, was sent home to his room and rightly never refereed an international match again.
Stuart Attwell 2008
Perhaps the most extraordinary recent addition to the referee blooper reel is Reading’s goal against Waford in September 2008. Well, when I say ‘goal’ I’m using the term loosely. Very loosely. A corner is punted into the box and deflects into the path of Stephen Hunt who fails to prevent the ball from travelling across the touchline at the near post. Play continues for a short while as Reading hit the bar and have a shot blocked before Watford scramble the ball clear.
The whistle had gone already, presumably for a goal kick, and the Watford keeper begins to settle the ball on his six-yard line. But no, the referee, Stuart Attwell, 25, on advise from his assistant, had bizarrely given a goal. It’s even more laughable considering that Attwell didn’t seem the least bit concerned by the overly muted celebrations of the Reading players who were still fixated on the ball. The decision instantly sparked protests from the Watford players which inevitably fell ondeaf ears. Reading meanwhile, slightly bemused, readied for the restart, hiding their new rabbit foot necklaces. The match eventually finished 1-1 and spared, to an extent, the blushes of the men in black.