It may have been controversial, but it was the right call, argues former FIFA assistant referee David Meier
Last Tuesday night we all sat around our televisions to watch the highest profile game of the season so far. European Champions League last 16 second leg at Old Trafford. The two teams Manchester United and Real Madrid are arguably the biggest two teams in the world. The list of players on the field was mouthwatering. Giggs, Ronaldo, Vidic, Ramos, Ferdinand, to name just a few. Not to mention the two genius managers who sat in the dugouts, Mr Ferguson and Mr Mourinho. As the referee blew his whistle to start the game, little did we know that by the time the final whistle blew, one manager was to be too distraught to talk to the press and the other was to be all so humble in victory. Over to you referee, Mr Cakir from Turkey.
In these islands there was very little known about Cuneyt Cakir, the referee for the game. A 36-year-old from Istanbul who has been on the panel since 2003. Top games call for top officials and UEFA had sent one of their best. In fact, so good is Mr Cakir he refereed the World Club Championship final last year. A referee who is not afraid to show a card but is consistent in his applications of the laws of the game.
I won’t run you through the whole game as if you’re getting a match report. Let’s fast forward to the moment when the game exploded into controversy. Ball cleared to midfield, Nani challenges Arbeloa, whistle goes free kick, game paused to allow treatment for the players, Nani on feet then receives a red card. Now, before I go on and explain, let me just say the referee was 100% correct. Absolute brilliant decision and man enough to produce it. Absolute sheer disbelief fell over the ground and Mr Ferguson was out of his seat like a greyhound coming out of a trap.
Let me peel open the reason I regarded it as a straight red. I deemed it to be serious foul play, thus meaning the referee had to send Nani off. It all comes down to interpretation of the law. It states that if a player endangers another on the pitch this has to be deemed as serious foul play, which automatically means red. Nani endangered the player by having his foot up so high whilst going for the ball he ended up with his studs buried in Arbeloa’s ribs. Clear cut to me and other FIFA officials: he had to go.
All the stuff you read after the game about managers not prepared to do press conferences was just for the show. In fact I thought one manager was doing a job interview for Old Trafford by being so humble in victory. Through all this the referee had to be escorted from the ground to his hotel and on Wednesday morning escorted to the airport. Some people should ask themselves why? I say well done Mr Cakir. Well done for getting a tough call right, and I hope you have a great end of season: maybe the final for you at Wembley, young man, as the great Brian Clough used to say.