Red Carded: why would you want to be a football referee?

Why would you want to be a football referee? Most people probably will not be able to find even one positive reason, here is my take and look into the world of refereeing.

Listen, I might not be a Premier League referee, but nonetheless a lot of my friends and family ask me why on earth I enjoy refereeing. All of the abuse, swearing, shouting, bickering, acting, aggression and ungrateful nature of the game would not really make the average person consider picking up this trade. Which I can completely agree with if that is your view on refereeing, however the world of refereeing is very different compared to the views of the average couch critic. So let me give you my take on this whistling malarkey.

As good old froggy whiner and ex Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger mostly said after a loss, “Uhm yez it was ze referee’s fault!”. That twat still couldn’t speak a decent word of English after more than 20 years in the country. Merde! That aside, his quote is one I hear a lot, maybe not weekly, but every 2 or 3 games definitely.

And being a referee makes you the easiest target and let’s be honest most logical scapegoat on the football pitch. Even in my footballing days we knew most referee’s and their mostly negative reputations. Not because we hated every referee, but because in most cases those referees were really poor or even worse, wanted to make the match about them.

And let me tell you something, the goal as a referee is ideally to whistle as a rarely as possible and let the game flow at its natural pace. A referee should ‘never’ be the centre of attention in any football game. He must lead the game, yes, but the game is about two teams trying to win, not the bloke or lass with the whistle.

Talking about reputations, let me address a certain ball-bag called Mike Dean. He is the twat in the cover picture. Mikey is a professional FA referee who referees most his matches in the Premier League in England, as well as some occasional Champions League and international nation games. Mikey likes to talk. Mikey likes to be the centre of attention. Mikey makes a lot of mistakes. Mikey likes red cards, but really loves yellow cards. And with those mistakes come the heavy consequences that affect the outcome of most games. Mikey shows us all how to not be a referee.

So we thank Mikey for showing us how refereeing should not be done and why so many referees have such a bad reputation.
In amateur football there are no camera’s, reporters, commentators (some parents might think they are) or reliable assistant referee’s. Gosh, where is the fame in that mate?

The foundation of any referee is knowing the rules and let me tell you there are a lot of them. 228 pages of them if you take rule book from FIFA. Not only are there a lot of rules, some of the rules like offside are so complex they cannot be explained easily over a beer in the pub anymore. As they made fun of in this Amstel beer commercial in the Netherlands, which eventually was banned. Here it is anyway with subtitles:

My point is not to approve of LGBTQ mockery, but rather the way the guy in the commercial explained offside once really was that simple. Now there are 3 full page A4’s on offside in the rulebook. And don’t forget that the referee has to act upon any given situation within a matter of seconds and get it right every time. All those rules shooting through your brain like mad electrodes.

Football has become very complex and in amateur football it only makes it more frustrating that the parents often don’t know these rules to that extent and hate you even more regardless of what the rule really is. Because their son or daughter is the next Messi, so you better allow them to do anything. After all you told your child every night before going to bed that they are ‘special’, and what do ‘special’ raised kids mostly turn into? Bullying arrogant diving-like-Neymar twats.

So if there are rules and all the players and coaching staff supposedly know them then every game should run quite straight forward, right? You would theoretically think that. Problem is that in amateur football and even some professional football referees sometimes bend the rules to their will. Don’t ask me why, I have never seen the point and do not know why people do it, you are only ruining the beautiful game of football.

Should you wish to engulf yourself with the knowledge of these rules then have at it right HERE, all 228 pages, just for you! Go to page 97 if you wish to have a good old wank over those pesky offside rules.

The other half of being a decent referee lies in the character of set referee. In comes the bloke below, Nestor Pitana. You might remember him from the last World Cup 2018 final between France and Croatia. Yeah he screwed up a bit, partly due to VAR, but let’s not go into that again.

courtesy of

Nestor is cool. Nestor is South American. Nestor wears his socks over his knees. Nestor does not have a lot of hair left, but tries a fancy comb-over anyway. Still Nestor is cool.

courtesy of

And let me tell you, you have to be a bad ass motherf*cker to be a professional referee in South America, let alone Argentina. Those folks are mad for football, and if you think referees show a lot of yellow cards in the Spanish La Liga, then go watch some Argentinian Primera Division games. Bloody carnage it is.

But hold on! You just showed us a 228 page rule book, then why is there such a difference in refereeing standards all over the world?

True, very true indeed. Refereeing is a trade that requires a fine touch of observation, interpretation and the skill to sense a situation’s severity whilst combining it with the before mentioned rules. And this is where the difference arises, different referees and football associations allow different interpretations of fouls, behaviour and mistakes.

You often hear a football commentator say on tv that in Spain this would be a foul and yellow card, but in England play just goes on without the referee stopping play for a foul.

I even see this difference in interpretation back home in Holland, where certain FA referees blow their whistle for every little foul because they believe that allows them to keep control of the game. If you go into every game with that tunnel vision, you are seriously holding back the flow of the game. Generally speaking a referee would start whistling more for fouls if a game is becoming agitated and aggressive.

I however like a free flowing and physical game, within the boundaries of the rules of course. But again that is a matter of interpretation.

Fun. Yes fun.
It makes the world of football and refereeing a very difficult one at that. BUT, refereeing can be so much fun. Yes, even with all the above downsides. It can be a tremendous thrill, adrenaline rush and feeling of power that isn’t easy to get in other parts of life. No, we are not all a bunch of power hungry dictators. Nein! Nein! Nein!

Refereeing allows us to watch the beautiful game of football, whilst influencing the game with control, respect, rules and authority. Because without that, football would be carnage. It makes me a very happy man when I leave the pitch after a game and parents, coaches come up to me telling me that I had a great game. Knowing you had a good game is a tremendously satisfying feeling that outweighs all the downsides of the sport. Also seeing the joy in the players eyes when they win, watching young boys and girls do what they love, the game of football, it still makes my heart melt every minute on the pitch.

On a side note I would like to ask everyone to show more respect, calmness and consideration to all referees, we (referees) could all do with a boosted image and reputation.
Don’t be a Mike Dean, be Nestor. Nestor is cool.

The Shirt Collector: why? seriously why?

Here is me opening up about my footie shirt collecting addiction and attempting to explain: why?

My wife, ex-girlfriends and especially my parents have never failed to reiterate their frustration, confusion and sheer lack of comprehension towards my football shirt collecting passion (uhm..addiction). Again for my American friends, this is soccer not American football. So as my wife and parents have asked for so many years: why? Seriously why? Well let me try and answer the ‘why’ and allow me to expose you to the artistic yet stupendous world of funky coloured shirts with numbers and silly names on the back.


My roots
Being born in Rotterdam, the home of Feyenoord, was no obstacle for my dad who made it very clear from an early age that there is only one club to support, Ajax Amsterdam. So the above was my first shirt of many, so damn many shirts. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old and at that age you then do not wish to wear anything else but that shirt. Showing off to your mates and all that usual kids stuff. I remember that at a later stage I even had my name Marcel and the number 11 printed on the back. I was only a kid, now I would have definitely not put my own first name on there (pfff.

I grew up in various countries like Gabon, Scotland, Holland and England and spent many holidays abroad where I somehow seem to focus on finding shops that sold football shirts. It was like a hunter seeking out animals to kill, my hunt as a piece of fabric.

Now my parents at first thought that this was going to get a bit too expensive and tried to sway me towards the fake shirts sold at the local markets. I know, how could they! Especially in Spain, where we frequently went on holiday, there is just an abundance of fake shirts sold at markets for only a fraction of the cost that an authentic kit would cost.

However paying 20 euro’s for a fake shirt instead of 60 or 70 back then for an authentic kit was a trick that my parents did not manage to brainwash me with for too long. Bless them for trying, but this addicted mind would not budge.

I remember vividly the fake away shirt of Bayern Munich from 1998 bought on a Spanish market, I believe on the island of Gran Canaria. My mother is a renowned and feared haggler for the lowest prices at markets. I can still hear some cries in the far distance.
She would always start at half the price, then after re-emphasising three times she would not budge, the market vendor would remain firm and deny the sale, upon which my mother would then start walking away with great drama and 9 out of 10 times the vendor coming after her saying he would agree anyway.
Yeah she would have made an interesting interrogator in a different lifetime.

Real vs Fake
For those of you wondering what the difference is between an authentic kit and a fake (market) version, well I know there are more important things in life but that difference is very simple: the kit maker’s logo. Although I have to add a side note there. Back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that was the case. Most shirts were missing the Nike, Adidas or Puma logo’s and often even had the wrong sponsor names.
See below for example.


However I have noticed many places have actually upped their game in counterfeit shirts which are much harder to distinguish nowadays.
For example this shirt:

Fake vs Real Kits (2)

Subtle differences in color and material used. So what to do about this folks?
Well also that answer is very simple. If you want an authentic kit then do not go to the markets but visit the football club official store often at the stadium, go to retailers like Intersport, Nike, Adidas, Puma and of course you will be paying full price, however you at least know you are wearing the real deal.

On the other hand if you do not care then save yourself some money and go to those horrible markets and try and avoid my mother.

So why?
You know how artsy people would go to a museum or gallery and stare at a piece of art for hours and admire the sheer beauty of its design? Well often I do not understand those people when I see some of the paintings they’re looking at, but I have to tell you all that for me football kits are…art.

Every season I get excited about which new designs are being released and most importantly which ones from my own club, Arsenal.

Over my lifetime I have owned over 100 authentic kits. A lot I sold on eBay and others I kept for memory’ sake. And I am sure you must be wondering why on earth I need that many kits, well call me crazy or a hoarder, but its like I mentioned earlier, collecting art.

So in this section of The Shirt CollectorI will be covering what I look for in shirts, my all time favourites and how I can be such a traitor and wear the shirts of my rivals etc.. So stay tuned for more fabric lunacy!