Under-fire World Cup final referee Howard Webb admits Soccer City on Sunday night was “the most difficult two hours of my career.”
England’s top referee, who has been refereeing top class football for five years, handed out a record 14 cards and sent off Johnny Heitinga as Holland were accused of trying to kick the triumphant Spaniards off the park.
Webb, 38, said: “It left me physically and emotionally drained but FIFA have been very supportive - not just about the final but our performances throughout the whole tournament."
Webb was confronted by an Orange grove of furious Dutchmen after the final whistle – and was also blasted by the Spaniards for not sending off Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong for a first-half kick into the chest of Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso.
Many feel FIFA chief Sepp Blatter was less than fully supportive. He said: “We have to live with the errors of players and referees. I can only say it was a very hard task the officials had. It was not easy, really not easy. The side that played football won.”
But Keith Hackett, in charge of Premier League referees in England, backed his man. He said: " Out of all the referees at the World Cup, Howard was the ideal appointment. Had a referee with lesser experience been in charge, it could well have deteriorated into mass confrontation.
"You expect players to respond to a referee - and cautions normally serve to calm players down. But in this game, yellow cards had little effect on some players who continued to test his authority.
"It is unfair that Howard is being criticised because, overall, he had a superb game technically.”
Sorry about the doctored picture. Couldn't resist it. Twittered by SuperSports' Clinton van der Berg. And we all know what former police sergeant Webb looks like!
Neal Collins (nealcol) has almost finished promoting his World Cup novel A GAME APART in South Africa. See www.nealcollins.co.uk for more information... and the soon-to-be-written sequel!