⚽️ The Most Controversial Refereeing decisions in World Football History

Referees have one of the most difficult jobs in sports, as each of their rulings can have a significant impact on the outcome of the game, and even the season.

Every referee has to make difficult judgments and will be chastised by players, managers, and spectators at some point.

Good referees are ones who can take criticism and, most of the time, make the proper choice.

An official’s instincts are vital in making decisions, and there is always the risk of him making a major error during a game.

In this thread, we shall be discussing some of the most Controversial referee decisions we’ve witnessed in the football world. Feel free to share your opinion


Watford vs. Reading: The “Ghost Goal”

When his linesman said he saw the ball cross the line, referee Stuart Attwell made one of the most strange judgments of his career when he gave the goal. The ball was nowhere near the goal line, and Watford fans, players, and the manager were all incensed by the referee’s decision.


Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’

This one ranks somewhere about an 8.5 on the Richter scale of referee gaffes, at least in the perspective of English football fans.

It was the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals, and England was facing Argentina in Mexico City. In the 51st minute, with the score at 0-0, Diego Maradona scored a goal with his hand.

Ali Bin Nasser, the referee, was unaware of the occurrence and notoriously allowed the goal to stand.

"I was expecting my teammates to embrace me, but they didn’t show up. ‘Come hug me, or the referee won’t let you,’ I warned them "According to ESPNFC, Maradona said this in 2005.

After then, Maradona went on to score one of the greatest goals in tournament history.


Josip Simunic receives three bookings in a single game, FIFA World Cup 2006

Prior to the start of the Croatia’s match against Australia in the FIFA World Cup 2006, Englishman Graham Poll was tipped to become the chief referee for the tournament’s final. However, within another 90 minutes, Poll ruined all possible chances of being handed the whistle for the all-important game, with an outrageous error.

Poll managed to show three yellow cards to Croatian defender Josip Simunic, resulting in the referee being forced to pack his bags early and return home from the tournament.


:fr: One more - ‘Le Hand of God’!! :eyes:

The goal that sent France to the 2010 World Cup and denied the Republic of Ireland a place at the World Cup. Thierry Henry / France got away with the handball against Ireland in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. For both sets of players, it was a night they will never forget.

Thierry Henry Handball Ireland V France 1-1 (agg 1-2) Hand Of Frog /God 18/11/09


Nigeria’s Victor Ikpeba’s shootout goal denied, 2000 Africa Cup of Nations final

The 4-3 win, after the match had finished 2-2 following extra-time, was steeped in controversy after Victor Ikpeba’s fourth penalty for Nigeria was not awarded by the Tunisian referee Mourad Daami despite appearing to cross the line after hitting the underside of the crossbar.

Referee’s poor refereeing cost Nigeria the cup as Cameroon triumphed 4-3. Having won their most recent AFCON trophy in 1994, Nigeria were supposed to end a six-year hiatus in 2000. Nigeria would win their next AFCON gold only 13 more years later, in 2013.

Nigeria’s Victor Ikpeba’s shootout goal denied - 7:50


Roy Carroll Left Red-Faced Against Spurs

It was a case of “the goal that never was” when Tottenham Hotspur were denied a legitimate strike against Manchester United in 2005.

Roy Carroll, who was United’s goalkeeper at the time, fumbled with a 45-yard shot from Spurs’ Pedro Mendes. He dropped the ball, which clearly bounced over the line, before grabbing it to his chest—hoping that no-one was watching.

Everyone who was watching saw that it was a goal, apart from the people who mattered—referee Mark Clattenburg and his assistants

The game ended 0-0 and the incident is remembered as one of the worst “ghost goal” decisions in Premier League history.


Ben Thatcher’s Horror Tackle on Pedro Mendes

It was a challenge that lived long in the memory.

Manchester City and Portsmouth were engaged in the second match of the 2006-07 Premier League season when City’s Ben Thatcher made an awful attempt to knock Mendes off the ball.

He didn’t stand a chance of getting there, so Thatcher’s tactic was brute force, as he smashed his elbow into the Pompey midfielder’s face. Mendes was knocked unconscious, appeared to have a fit on the touchline and was taken away in an ambulance.

Thatcher received a yellow card from referee Dermot Gallagher.

At the time, it was a highly controversial call. Later, Thatcher was given a retrospective ban of eight games by the Football Association, as reported by BBC Sport.


Lampard’s Disallowed World Cup Goal

In June 2010, England were taking on Germany in the second round of the World Cup.

Trailing 2-1, a shot from Frank Lampard during a period of dominance for England was not given, despite clearly crossing the line.

It was not even a close call.

Germany went on to win the game 4-1 and England were knocked out of the tournament. Who knows what might have been, had the goal stood.


Ball Boy Awarded Goal in Brazil

If there is one football clip that you watch this week, this should be it.

In a bizarre scenario that unfolded in the Paulista Football Federation Cup in Brazil in 2006, referee Silvia Regina de Oliveira awarded a goal to Santacruzense after a ball boy put the ball into the net.
The ball had gone out of play after a Santacruzense shot went wide, but the ball boy brought it back into play and put it over the line. Cue an apoplectic response from Atletico Sorocaba’s players.

The referee said she based her decision on what her assistants told her, “I should have trusted my own vision,” she said in a radio interview (h/t to the Daily Mail).


Zola Sent off at USA '94

When Gianfranco Zola was sent off just minutes after taking to the pitch for Italy at the 1994 World Cup, it was a highly controversial decision.

It was a rather innocuous challenge, however the Azzurri man was adjudged to have made a serious foul on Augustine Eguavoen of Nigeria. He was subsequently sent off by referee Arturo Brizio Carter, who dished out nine yellow cards over the course of the game.
To add insult to injury, this happened on Zola’s 28th birthday.

In an exclusive interview with B/R in November 2013, Zola recalled the incident. He said:

I was surprised. Shocked. I went from being a player who had received just a few yellow cards in his career to a red card in a World Cup. It was a devastating moment for me. It was my first game in the World Cup, so I was excited and thankful for the opportunity. Being sent off was a big blow.


Paul Gascoigne Flashes a Yellow Card and Receives One

Paul Gascoigne was one of the most talented footballers to emerge in England, but he was also a entertainer.

In this video, referee Dougie Smith drops his yellow card on the pitch. Gascoigne gives it back to the referee in characteristic fashion flashing the yellow at the referee. However, Smith failed to see the lighter side and booked him for his behavior.


Crystal Palace’s Stanchion’s Curse

Crystal Palace were the aggrieved team on two separate occasions, which looked identical with both hitting the stanchion and bouncing out, only for the referee to declare that it was not a goal.

The first involved Clive Allen scoring a brilliant free-kick only to be denied by the referee. The other involves young Freddie Sears finishing clinically for Crystal Palace but is again denied by the referee, leaving Neil Warnock and others absolutely furious.


Rivaldo ‘Injury’ Cons Referee

It does not matter what else Rivaldo has done on a football pitch, for memories of the midfielder will always be tainted by the injury that he feigned in the 2002 World Cup.

Calling it controversial is putting things mildly.

Turkey’s Hakan Unsal kicked the ball against the Brazilian’s legs and Rivaldo went down like a ton of bricks.

Unsal was dismissed as a result of the incident in the last minute of Brazil’s 2-1 win. Later that week, Rivaldo was fined by FIFA but seemed unrepentant about his actions. As seen on BBC Sport, he said:

"I’m calm about the punishment. I am not sorry about anything.

I was both the victim and the person who got fined.

Obviously the ball didn’t hit me in the face, but I was still the victim. I did not hit anyone in the face."


Tom Henning Ovrebo: Never Forgotten at Stamford Bridge

If you cast your mind back to Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final tie against Barcelona in May 2009, what do you think of first?

Four penalty appeals that were turned down by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo? Perhaps you remember a visibly fuming rant from Didier Drogba into the television cameras? Or how about the fallout that followed the game, in which Ovrebo received death threats and hate mail?

As far as contentious refereeing performances go, this was right up there with the worst of them.


Nigel De Jong and THAT Challenge

How Nigel de Jong got away with this challenge is anyone’s guess.

In the 2010 World Cup Final, which was being officiated by English referee Howard Webb, Netherlands midfielder De Jong tackled Spain’s Xabi Alonso with a chest high Kung-Fu kick.

“It was one of the worst tackles I have ever suffered,” said Alonso to BBC Sport.

De Jong received a yellow for his flying lunge.


Kiessling Slips Through the Net

The most recent gaffe in our selection, Stefan Kiessling’s phantom goal for Bayer Leverkusen never should have stood.

The 29-year-old’s headed effort against Hoffenheim went wide, only to slip through the side-netting and land in the back of the net.

With his head in his hands, Kiessling rued his missed chance, only for the goal to be awarded by referee Felix Brych.

A controversial decision—but who can blame Brych for awarding one of the strangest goals you’ll ever see?

As reported by John Drayton in the Daily Mail, Leverkusen director of sport Rudi Voller said afterwards:

“Of course this is uncomfortable for us because this is not the way we want to win but we can’t do anything about it.
Stefan Kiessling was not sure about it either, he didn’t have a good feeling either.”


Leeds vs. West Brom (1970-71 Season)

Leeds United were competing for the title when this inexplicable decision by referee Ray Tinkler cost them this game and ultimately, the title.

The linesman signals West Brom player Colin Suggett offside and the Leeds defense stops dead, but Tinkler allows play to continue and Jeff Astle scores the goal. As a result, Leeds lost their title to Arsenal, leaving their manager and players devastated.


Spain vs. South Korea, World Cup 2002

South Korea had a dream World Cup in 2002, but they were aided in no small part by the officials, who influenced the games against Spain and Italy to a great extent.

Spain were disallowed what looked like two perfectly legitimate goals, with the second blunder the worse of the two. The first one was disallowed for “pushing in the area,” while the second one was taken back because it was ruled that the ball had gone out of play before being crossed.

In the game against Italy, again another goal was wrongly not given because of an offside call. The Italians’ various penalty claims throughout the match were denied. Not to mention the fact that Francesco Totti was sent off for diving.


Argentina vs Brazil, Copa America semi-final 2019

Argentina vs Brazil’s semi-final match in the 2019 Copa America made headlines not only because of the high-profile nature of the game, but because of the VAR-related controversy that caused Lionel Messi to heavily criticise CONMEBOL.

“There is no doubt, the whole thing is set up for Brazil,” he said. "I hope the VAR and referees don’t play any part in the final and that Peru can compete but it looks tough to me.

“I did not want to be part of this corruption, we shouldn’t have to be part of this disrespect we suffered during the Copa America.”