It was my 11th match in this UEFA u17 tournament in England, and everything had been going great with no major scandals, WELL NOT UNTIL MONDAY IN CHESTERFIELD !.
Chesterfield is famous for its crooked spire church in the centre of town The 14th Century Church of St.Mary and All Saints, and a twisted and dodgy regime that have taken The Spireites out of The Football League and into The Conference after a century. Their Proact Stadium will be one of the best in the 5th tier of English football next season and not very full.
When I started out as a young rookie referee in West Yorkshire over half a century ago it took some time to realize that I was not the main event, and the Beautiful Game and its players were just that.
As a reporter you also try not be be the focus of the story that you are reporting and here in Chesterfield we finally had a soccer scandal on the beautifully maintained pitch in this Derbyshire.market town.
There were only 673 people in the one main stand, and half of those were blazers or the prawn sandwich brigade for what was an intriguing quarter final between unbeaten and unscored on Netherlands and the feisty Republic of Ireland team under coach Colin O'Brien. Last year in Croatia they also made the quarters and next year will host the tournament across the Irish Sea with the final scheduled for South Dublin's Tallaght Stadium.
I had watched the Irish lose their first match in Loughborough against Belgium, and then beat Denmark at St George's Park where the referee was Zbynek Proske of The Czech Republic. one of 8 referrees and 12 assistants assigned to the competition of 31 matches.
Not much of note in the first half of 40 minutes with defences on top. In the 61st minute Liam Van Gelderen of Ajax headed home from a corner from Mohammed Ihattaren of PSV Eindhoven. Was this going to be the deciding goal? NO, because less than two minutes later Troy Parrott of Tottenham Hotspur brought the teams level, his third of the tournament and joint top scorer. The assist came from Jason Knight of Derby County.
Just prior to these exciting events we had a nonsense call from the 37 year old Czech referee with the Polish name. Jimmy Corcoran, the only Irish player not playing overseas in England took a free kick just outside his box. The young 16 year old from Cherry Orchard FC in Elmdale, Dublin was given a yellow card for time wasting. RUBBISH. These young schoolchildren don't have the nastiness that you find in the EPL, The Champions League or the World Cup. I quick talking to would have been sufficient. I thought at the time that this action might come back to haunt this inexperienced 37 year old official.. who was refereeing his 4th match of the campaign. HOW INDEED IT DID !!
We went to penalties to decide the tie, with no extra time in this competition.
Joey Koorevaar of Feyenoord brilliantly saved the first pk by the Irish and then all the other spot kicks were scored until the 5th and final Dutch one. Corcoran saved from Daishawn Redan of Chelsea. BUT referee Proske indicated that he had moved off the line, ordered the kick retaken and gave the Irish goalkeeper a second yellow card and sent him off. WHAT AN INJUSTICE. I was as close to anybody but the players and cameramen and thought that he had one foot on the line and was not any more guilty than his opposite number.
Oisin McEntee of Newcastle United put on the goalies jersey and Redan scored at the second attempt. The referee was confronted as he left the pitch by Martin O'Neill the senoir team boss who left his seat in the stands. A good job his assistant Roy Keane who had sat next to him did not come down and bite his nose off !!!
All these young players are unpaid, fly at the back of the plane and play for the joy and and get' three hots and a cot' (although the cots are in 4 star hotels at St George's Park, Loughborough University and elsewhere). The referees and the blazers fly business class, get per diems and match fees and are hoping for Champions League and World Cup glory.
I tried to find out who is the referee boss at this tournament without getting a reply. The Head referee of UEFA is Pierluigo Collina from Bologna, Italy,. The World's Best Referee for a number of seasons, Italian Calcio Hall of Fame and honorary degree from Hull University. I HOPE THAT HE WAS NOT AMUSED BY THIS REFEREEING PERFORMANCE.!!!
So, on Thursday afternoon in Rotherham we have the first semi-final between Italy and Belgium at 1.00pm, followed in the eveningat 7.00pm 30 minutes away in Chesterfield between England and The Netherlands.
The final will be in Rotherham's New York Stadium on Sunday evening.