The Last Word: The referee's decision must always be final
Professional sportsmen need to respect him or anarchy could break out.
By JEREMY LAST
"In the end they'll murder a referee here, and it will all be because of a penalty he saw or didn't see. Afterwards they will show up and apologize."
These chilling words were spoken this week by director general of the soccer referees association Yariv Teper; and it has not been difficult to understand why he felt this way.
On Sunday it was revealed that referee's assistant (linesman) Shimon Dvir was bombarded with threats on his life after he decided that a penalty should be given in the closing minutes of Saturday's Premier League game between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
No one is doubting that the 87th minute decision was contentious, to say the least. Video replays showed that there was every chance Hapoel defender Walid Badir had not pulled Ironi striker Yuval Avidor's shirt as he fell in the box.
And it could well have significant influence on this year's title race with Tel Aviv currently in third position and pushing up towards the leading pack.
At the time of the penalty Hapoel was leading 1-0 and the team's players, management and fans were rightly disappointed to see the game finish in a 1-1 draw.
However, the conduct of some of the Tel Aviv players after the penalty was given, and their fans after the final whistle, was despicable.
Badir, the Hapoel captain and a veteran of both the local Israeli league and the national team who has played in England for Wimbledon, rushed straight at Dvir and began screaming at the linesman with a crazed look on his face.
Why referee Meir Levy only gave Badir a yellow card rather than sending him off is anyone's guess, but it was scary to see the look in Badir's eyes as he vehemently protested the decision both before and after the penalty was taken.
Following the final whistle both Levy and Dvir had to be escorted to their dressing room by police as objects rained down on them, thrown by disgruntled Hapoel supporters.
And the following day Dvir made an official complaint to police after threats on his life were left on his personal page on the popular social networking Internet site Facebook.
According to reports, these included "Consider yourself dead," and "We'll murder you."
The lengthy protests by the players, led by Badir, undoubtedly fueled the Hapoel supporters.
Perhaps it is an ingrained lack of respect for authority but there should never be a situation when a player acts in such a disgusting manner towards one of the people in charge at a soccer game. Strong action must be taken against Badir in order to send a warning to other players.
It is far from the first time this has happened.
Just a couple of weeks ago respected coach Lothar Matthaus was suspended for two games after he reportedly entered the referee's dressing room at half time of a Premier League game and voiced his concerns about a decision taken against his team.
It is incidents such as these which illustrate the unprofessional atmosphere in Israeli sports, something that must be changed if Israel to be taken seriously on the international stage.
One may argue that the refs in Israel aren't the best and don't make perfect decisions every time.
And one could also claim that a fourth official should watch controversial situations again on a television replay, although there is every chance that it would be just as difficult to decide what happened.
However, the fact is that the referee is the man who makes the decision and professional sportsmen need to respect these decisions or anarchy could break out on the soccer field, and then spread to the stands.
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