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The Worst Refereeing Decisions Ever

Ask anyone what the hardest job in football is and you'll get a myriad of different answers. Maybe it's being a goalkeeper or a manager, perhaps the chairman is the hardest job? Well without doubt the hardest job is that of the referee. It has been said that the best referees will go unnoticed as the game is played, and there is certainly a grain of truth in that statement.

Do your job well and people will be talking about the match rather than about your performance. However if you make even one mistake then expect abuse, bad press and even punishments. It is a fine balancing act and without the advantage of slow motion replay and time to ponder a decision the referee must make the right call in the heat of the moment. While pundits have the opportunity to look over an incident in slow motion from a multitude of angles, the referee does not have this chance, making his job all that more difficult.

Given the fine line between making the right decision and making a bad one in football it comes as no surprise that sometimes the referee gets things hideously wrong. While there may be an excuse for a bad decision sometimes the one given by the referee just can't be explained. This article looks at some of the worst decisions ever made by football referees and should give some backing for calls of video replays being used during games to aid the officials.

Diego Maradona's second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup is often hailed as one of the greatest goals of all time. His first goal has become known as one of the most bizarre. As the ball was played high into the penalty area the diminutive Maradona managed to out-jump England keeper Peter Shilton and put the ball into the net.

Television replays clearly showed Maradona using his hand to beat the goalkeeper to the ball. The goal should never have stood and England were beaten 2-1 and knocked out of the World Cup with Argentina going on to win the tournament, showing just how much a bad refereeing decision can impact a team and a competition.

Generally regarded as a good referee, if a little prone to errors, Graham Poll committed one of the strangest refereeing mistakes in recent memory at the 2006 World Cup. During the match between Australia and Croatia Poll booked Josip Simunic twice without sending him off, eventually giving him his marching orders for a third yellow card at the end of the game. The mistake would see Poll sent home from the World Cup and his eventual retirement from tournament football, stating that this incident was his reason for stopping.

Standing out among all others as the strangest decision a football referee has made is the goal that Reading scored against Watford in 2008. The ball was hooked wide of the goal, but cleared away from the area. The linesman and the referee somehow gave a goal, despite the ball being a foot wide and never even touching the net.

The referee, Stuart Attwell, later claimed that it was an optical illusion that made it look like the ball was inside the goal. Illusion or not, it is one of the most bizarre goals ever awarded and will surely be remembered for many years.

Another goal mouth incident is next up and it's almost a direct opposite of the Reading incident. In 2005 while playing for Tottenham Pedro Mendes hooked the ball from the half-way line into the Manchester United goal. Goalkeeper Roy Carrol fumbled the ball before clawing it out from behind the line. The ball was over by about a foot but the officials said that it was not a goal.

Television replays confirmed that the goal should have been allowed and Spurs should have won 1-0 and taken three points from the game. The disallowed goal sparked a debate over whether replays should be used to aid decision-making and based on this game it certainly has a strong case.

These are some of the worst and the strangest decisions that I can remember, and they present a strong case for the addition of television replays to help officiating top-level matches. It must be remembered, however, that for the most part referees do an excellent job and games pass by with barely a mention of the man in the middle.

It is just an unfortunate situation that any error can so drastically change the course of a game, and even a season. Using replays to help the referee seems like a reasonable idea and in most cases wouldn't slow the game down much at all. Surely it's much better to get the right decision than save thirty seconds?

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