They say one decision can change everything, and that implies greatly on the game of football. Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’, or Geoff Hurst’s controversial ‘Phantom Goal’, or Rudi Voller’s dive that won Germany the World Cup – were all massive refereeing decisions that changed the complexion of the game.

The better side always wins only when the referee doesn’t commit blunders that favor a particular team. Human errors are acceptable, but sadly the game is plagued with so many horrendous decisions that it is humanly impossible to oversee most of them. Many times in the history, the referees have shamed the game with calls that are completely unacceptable. Here are 5 instances when injustice prevailed and the game was disgraced by the officials.

South Korea v/s Spain

The people who remember South Korea’s dream run in the 2002 FIFA World Cup also remember the unfair means through which the Asian side made it that far.

In a physical Quarter Final, both teams exchanged some heavy blows as the referee tried to keep the cards in his pocket. Korea was impressive on the counter but couldn’t break the much experienced Spanish side.

2002 FIFA World Cup south korea spain

In the first half, the ball was floated in from a set piece and Ruben Baraja did enough to head the ball past Goalkeeper Lee Woon-Jae. The goal was disallowed for a foul that never happened. The second half started with the same intensity and as the game progressed, Spain started using the width of the pitch to create gaps in the center.

Joaquin got the better of the Korean defense and crossed the ball to Morientes who slotted the ball in. But the linesman opined that the ball had crossed the line when Joaquin crossed the ball, the replays showed otherwise and another goal was disallowed. The match went into Penalties and Spain lost. The technical staff had to pull Spanish players away from venting their frustration on the referee.

South Korea v/s Italy

The round of 16 against Italy was just like the Quarter Final against Spain- full of unbelievable refereeing errors. To start off with, it was a Rugby match right from the first whistle. It was a brawl if not war. Vieri got the Azzurri in front but Korean resolve wasn’t dented. The attacks and tackles grew fiercer.

Zambrotta was jabbed on the hip but the referee didn’t bother brandishing a card, potentially which seemed to be red. A flurry of unfair and cynical tackles made even Giovanni Trapattoni question the referee’s caliber. Notably, Totti’s quick run was thwarted just in front of the box. The referee waved play-on, shocking the crowd in attendance. Just 3 minutes before the final whistle, the Koreans equalized.

The extra time saw yet another bizarre decision. Totti was sent off for diving in the box. That thought was a clear foul by Kim Tae-Young. Minutes after that, Tomassi was flagged offside; but even without the replays, it was impossible to even imagine how a player can be out of the zone while being 2 yards ahead in sight of the last defender. Italy had given it their all but misfortune struck when Ahn Jung-Hwan scored the Golden goal knocking Italy off.

Spain v/s Yugoslavia 1982

Spain’s dismal performances in FIFA World Cup 1982 made it clear that the team would see the next round. However, they needed a 2-1 win over Yugoslavia in their final group match to qualify. Trailing 1-0 in the first half, The Spanish side won a penalty for a foul that was committed at least 2 yards outside the box.

FIFA World Cup 1982 spain yugoslavia

Roberto Ufrate stepped up and pulled his shot wide. But the referee pointed to the spot again and wanted the penalty to be retaken for no reason. The ball was slotted home and hope was reignited. Spain raised their game and amidst several wrong foul calls, Spain slotted another in the second half to win the game and qualify to the next round, much to the dismay and disapproval of genuine football fans.

USSR v/s Belgium 1986

1986 World Cup will always be remembered for the Hand of God and probably the best goal ever, both involving Diego Maradonna. But that wasn’t the most controversial match of the edition. It was USSR v/s Belgium in the round of 16.

The mighty Soviets controlled the game and dominated Belgium throughout the match that extended till extra time. Taking the lead twice, USSR seemed to walk past the round with ease. But 2 horrendous decisions by the linesman changed the game completely. Allowing two clear off-side goals, that were seemingly obvious even without replays, dented Soviet morale.

Belgium rallied on and won the match 4-3. This match is considered as one of the most controversial matches ever!

Chelsea v/s Barcelona 2009

United v/s Chelsea part 2 seemed to be all set and done when a tenacious Chelsea side got their noses in front after Michael Essien’s wonder volley. The first leg of the UCL semi-final had ended in a goalless draw and now Barcelona needed a goal to qualify on away goals rule.

But Chelsea’s defense was just rock-solid and didn’t seem like getting opened up against any attacking force. At one side of the pitch, the London club kept all attacks at bay and on the other side exposed Barca’s defensive frailties with vicious counter attacks. It was their attacking half of the pitch that saw one of the most disgraceful refereeing performances in history.

Chelsea vs Barcelona 2009

Malouda was grappled to the ground by Dani Alves but the referee wasn’t interested in awarding a clear penalty call. He instead gave a free kick just outside the box. Eric Abidal unfairly brought Didier Drogba down in the box, twice in the match, but no penalty. His tussle with Yaya Toure was again overlooked what seemed another clear penalty kick.

Barca went a man down after Eric Abidal was sent off after a second justified yellow- the only fair decision that went Chelsea’s way.  The ball hit Pique’s extended hand in the box- no penalty. Messi made a quick dribble in the box and fed Andreas Iniesta. He slotted the ball into the top corner, the 94th minute into the game.

Barca was through if the scored stayed the same but the Blues tried to shrug that off and score a winner. They won a corner and Lampard crossed the ball in to find Ballack whose volley ricocheted off Seydou Keita’s arm, but no penalty. The furious German chased the referee, Tom Henning Øvrebø, and would have killed him had it not been a football pitch. Seconds after that, the final whistle was blown and the biggest day light robbery in history was witnessed.

Read: He’s A Keeper! – Why Goalkeepers Deserve More Love?


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