“Oi! Are You ‘Avvin’ a Larff?!!”

Posted by on Sep 23, 2010 | 2 Comments

Handbags at 10 pacesIt’s not every day a stranger walks up to you and tells you you’re shit, but if your kids play football and you put your hand up to be the man with the whistle, get used to it.

It’s not even as if it’s most, or even a significant minority of the opponents’ coaches that are bad. It really is only a minority. In fact  sometimes, someone else from the same team’s supporters might come up and apologise for the behaviour of their coach or coaches. But it only has to happen a couple of times before one starts to carry it off the field.

I reffed probably 15-20 halves of football this season, and of those, only four stick in my mind for the wrong reasons. One of those was partly my fault, as I became frustrated with one of the opposition coaches who was running the line, and was extraordinarily generous with his calls for offside.

We ended up literally having a running battle, with him, a walrus of a man, huffing and puffng up and down the line, raising his flipper every time our striker received the ball, and me, airily waving play on, and attempting to rush up the field to keep up with the action.

Karma was having a laugh that day, because after ignoring one of his offside calls and waving play on, I was promptly obliged to award a penalty to the opposition after my own son fluffed a tackle in the box. They duly scored, and ended up winning 2-1.

The phrase that invariably comes at the beginning of the tirade and which seems often delivered in a “sowf” London accent is “Are you avven a larff??!!” There must be an online community of these guys who work together to ensure all your prejudices of the Disgraceful Dad on the Sidelines are fulfilled. Assistant coach, flash tracksuit, fat, grumpy, thick-necked and the Dad of the dirtiest / cheekiest player in the opposition side.

When you think about it, it’s a ridiculous situation. The match was the Cup final for the league, and there I was, a supporter of one team, reffing with two linesmen who were supporters of the other. It was always going to end in tears! Both camps had convinced themselves beforehand that the other side was going to cheat to win.

In fact, watching the second half from the stands, I could not discern any obvious bias from their ref,  and the walrus, who continued to run the line in the second half, missed as many offside calls against our side as he wrongly awarded.

After another match, which the opposition had lost 8-2, the opposition team refused to do the “one for the ref” cheer. What kind of team spirit, and what kind of coach must they have, to find an excuse for the result in the ref’s performance when they were so spectacularly incompetent and so comprehensively beaten? I can answer the question myself; having spent 35 minutes on the pitch with them, I was party to all their internal bickering, and given the amount of enjoyment some of the players were getting from the game, I was surprised they had the motivation to run after the ball at all.

The coach was hilariously incompetent, his only qualifications seemingly a “sowff” London accent, monocular vision and his constant repetition of the cry “Chaalllinnngge!!!” at high volume.

The issue here is not that I was the perfect ref (in fact, the experience drove home to me what an incredibly difficult job it must be, and I wasn’t even qualified), but that one finds oneself in these situations in which a) you have no experience, and b) are situations in which you cannot really come out looking particularly good.

With the other games though, I soon realised I was on a hiding to nothing. If an opposition player goes down in the box, and you are the parent of the opposition team, you are a cheat if you don’t award the penalty. It’s inevitable. You’re biased aren’t  you?

And I guess that’s what I find gets me down. It is a situation which is designed, despite your best intentions to protect that most important of things – your integrity – to throw incidents at you where your integrity will be questioned. And sometimes, in your face, by a stranger, accompanied by expletives. And all this in front of your kids.

Still – what’s the alternative? Be cowed by these bullies? We seem to read about them and their ilk shoving their interests in front of everyone else’s on a daily basis. And they’re definitely a minority. So let’s all get out there on the field next season and do our best to ref fairly.

2 comments

  1. Colin says:

    Yeah, that was the last time England didn’t chronically under-perform.

  2. Andrew says:

    I agree. Sport can a times get really out of hand.
    My granfather was a football ref in Europe in the 30’s and he reffed a game between England and Germany in late 1939. Apparently a few spectators disagreed with a call or 2 and before you know it there are over 55 million dead and the USA has an atomic bomb!!

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