Referees and football officials – we love them when they make calls for us but despise them and call for their heads when they go against our team. The official has the unenviable task of maintaining control of 22 on-pitch egos and trying to maintain a fair and balanced level of decision making. The official must keep up with play, make snap decisions and discipline players who go too far in their actions. Everything they do is under the microscope of millions of television viewers, tens of thousands of live fans and the two teams playing the game. Being an official is a thankless job but that doesn’t matter to most fans.
Many officials are good at their job and most of the calls made on the pitch week in and week out are the correct calls. That said, there are definitely a few officials in every league who leave us wondering how they keep their jobs over the course of a season. Add to that a few more inconsistent linesmen and their missed off-side and foul calls and it can reach a point where we seriously consider throwing the television out the window. No, as fans we tend to forget the great calls and focus on the bad calls because they are the ones that leave us fuming, ranting or throwing punches.
The following looks at 25 of the most mind boggling, inexplicable and just plain terrible calls made by officials in football. This goes all the way from second-division matches right up to the World Cup. From referees completely losing control of the match to decisions which make us wonder if the referee and linesmen have been drinking, there are so many botched calls that it would be easy to create a top 100. Some of these calls are so suspicious they rightfully had us wondering if the game was rigged. Others were so obviously bad we couldn’t comprehend how a human being with two working eyes could have possibly made the decision. Of course, amidst all the discussion of incorporating new technology, perhaps we’d be better off just cloning several dozen Pierluigi Collinas – widely recognized as the most consistent and fair official in the modern game. Pierluigi, if you are reading this, could you please send us some blood samples – judging by the following list, it’s for a good cause.
25 Panathinaikos vs AC Milan – 2010
24 2010 World Cup – USA vs Slovenia
23 Genk vs Kortrijk – 2014 Jupiler League
22 Manchester United vs Manchester City, FA Cup 1996
21 Atletico Junior vs America – 2008
20 The “Phantomtor” – 1994
19 Rangers vs Hibernian – 1995
18 MSV Duisburg vs FSV Frankfurt – 2010
17 Coventry vs Crystal Palace – 1980
16 Marriner’s Incompetence – 2013/14
15 Manchester United vs Tottenham– 2005
14 2010 World Cup – Lampard’s Disallowed Goal
13 2010 World Cup – Argentina vs Mexico
12 2014 World Cup – Mexico vs Cameroon
11 1982 World Cup – Germany vs France
10 1978 World Cup – Brazil vs Sweden
9 The Hand of Fraud
8 Santacruzense vs Atletico Sorocaba – 2006
7 2006 World Cup – Portugal vs Holland
6 Graham Poll’s Counting Fail
5 2000 ACN Final – Nigeria vs Cameroon
4 Rivaldo’s Flop
3 2002 World Cup – Italy vs South Korea
2 2002 World Cup – Spain vs South Korea
1 The Hand of God
Perhaps not as scandalous as the 2002 World Cup in its entirety, the event which has become known as the Hand of God gets #1 on this list because it is the most infamous and well known botched call in football history. Thanks in large part to the iconic images of Argentina’s Diego Maradona handling the ball past English keeper Peter Shilton during the 1986 World Cup, the Hand of God has become as much a symbol of cheating as inept officiating. As if to highlight the total incompetence of the men in charge of the match, the Bulgarian linesman and Tunisian referee both agreed the goal shouldn’t have counted but each blamed the other for not calling the infraction. The linesman even later admitted he saw the infraction but felt he couldn’t raise his flag to call the goal off because the referee had already ruled for a goal.
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