Saturday, 10 July 2010

Howard Webb: England's New Saviour fights away the 4 German Goals of the Apocalypse

On the eve of the Final of the 2010 World Cup, Pardaad Chamsaz reflects on the announcement that Howard Webb is to referee the match:

Howard Webb will represent England in the World Cup Final and he will be the first Englishman to do so since 1976. Yesterday, as the news broke out, Buck's Fizz corks could be heard popping inside the red-and-white-clad Barmy Army dives. England has made the World Cup Final – or so it has been cleverly reported. There is no suggestion that the achievement of Webb is in any way comparable to an England team making the final, however the announcement – which is not to be downplayed – carries the familiar echo of English National Pride. It is no more than a desperate attempt at salvaging the wreck of English football from the bottom of a very deep ocean.

Howard Webb deserves this honour and it was evident since his first game in this year's competition that he was one of the more accomplished referees. Admittedly it was not difficult to pick him out of a pack of self-important, error-prone, trigger-happy officials, who, in an attempt to establish a stricter boundary ended up brandishing innumerable yellow and red cards, which not only constantly broke up potentially free-flowing, neutral-friendly matches, but actually created an atmosphere that made simulation and diving possible. Even if BBC's ex-striker football Gurus, Alan Shearer and Gary Linekar, want to term it “clever forward play” or the cunning winning of a free-kick in a good area, it is simply an embarrassment for a formerly honest beautiful game.

England's representative referee, Webb, is, by all accounts, a part of this formerly honest game. A South Yorkshire police officer, who tries not to throw himself into the limelight during a game. Is it not the ultimate compliment to a good referee and a good game if, at the end, you do not remember the referee who officiated the match? Sure, during the 2008 European Championships, Webb famously dominated not only the back pages but also the pages of hate-mail delivered to various Howard Webbs dotted around the country, when he gave Austria a penalty against Poland in 90th minute of the opening round fixture, which when converted took two points off the Poles. This event featured in the 2009 documentary “Les Arbitres” (The Referees), which shed new light on the men behind the (in)famous faces. Howard Webb and that incident played a central role in the film and when the cameras follow Webb back to Rotheram and to his family home, the disappointment of not reaching the latter stages reveals his passion as well the emotions of a difficult profession as a whole.

Webb is proud to represent England, I am sure. He will say something to that effect if he has not done already and there is nothing wrong with it. If anything it is a necessity to pander to patriotic side of the English, when in that situation. The question is, why must Howard Webb share and dilute his success with a nation of insatiably desperate football fans? Are we not just hopping on Webb's bandwagon? In the minds of the English it is not Howard Webb they are proud of but Howard Webb, “the English representative referee”. Webb happens to have stumbled on this time and place in history but for England fans it could have easily been another with a British Passport.

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