It was a moment that had to come — at some point.
The send-off. The single most confrontational moment in soccer. The moment where the referee (in this case, me) is forced to take action against and remove one of the game’s participants.
As it happened, I had to remove the coach (of what I’ll call the Red Team) after one of my assistants reported that he had used offensive, insulting or abusive language. That is in clear violation of Law 12, and an act made even more heinous due to his choice to do so in the presence of his youth players.
Now, I was told about what the coach had said immediately following the conclusion of the U-19 match. My assistant reported what he had heard and I had to make a decision — let it slide or confront the coach. So after a little prodding, I called the coach over and told him I had to send him off.
Obviously, he wasn’t happy. Not only had his team lost, 4-1, to a team they had already defeated several times this season, but he was fat, arrogant and ugly. Needless to say, he had plenty of reasons to be upset.
As for my performance and the match… I let the teams play (only calling a two first-half fouls) until the second half when things became more contentious. I issued a yellow card to Red #7 for a reckless slide tackle in the 67th minute, and I also disallowed a goal for the Red Team after my senior assistant flagged the team for being offside.
Clearly, he had ammunition in his gun but that does not excuse his aim or the fact that he pulled the trigger. All metaphors aside, no coach should ever be excused for such boorish behavior.
In the hours since I’ve been trying not to think too much about the way I handled the confrontation. I was professional and allowed him to say his peace without a snide retort — which I almost certainly could have done.
I will, however, learn from the experience. I’ll attempt to nip argumentative coaches before they have a chance to get to bloom and limit the amount of noise coming from the bench.
One thing is certain, though: I will ever, ever allow a coach to berate me, my assistants or the other team in such a manner.
So am I glad I had to experience my first send off? Not necessarily. But he gave me no choice.
What did he say?
And I quote, “Fuck that guy. He’s an idiot.”
Now, what would you have done?