Nishimura: When A Referee Becomes A Spectacle

Neymar scored. But not for the right reasons.

Neymar scored. But not for the right reasons.

Referees are like goalkeepers.

Make one mistake and the whole world comes down upon you.

In the goalkeeper’s case, you can retrieve your error with a later save, or even a headed goal in the last minute.

In the referee’s case, the only real way is to make another error favoring the team whom you’ve unjustly punished.

You’d think, therefore, that a referee’s chances of redeeming themselves would be greater.

I gave an unjust penalty? Oh, that’s OK, I’ll give another one for the other team a bit later and we’ll all be fine.

Somehow, this intelligent and dastardly solution didn’t reach the mind of Yuichi Nishimura.

This Japanese referee managed to ensure that neither he nor any member of his family will ever visit Croatia and see its thousand beautiful islands.

He’ll never eat the marvelous lamb called Peka. He’ll never dine at the sublime Prasac in Zagreb.

In today’s World Cup opening game between the Croats and the Brazilians, Nishimura shaved any degree of personal credibility in a decision which, charitably, represented personal gullibility.

A Croatian hand was placed on Fred’s shoulder. He fell as if he’d been felled.

Anyone with eyes and experience in using them could see that this was a dive that defied Fredulity.

There was no physical contact that could have possibly caused the substantial Brazilian to collapse.

Yet there was Nishimura, as decisive as a drunken hangman, signaling that this was a case of grievous bodily harm.

The decision turned the game.

Brazil had been looking like a slug on valium. Suddenly, the lead was theirs and the crowing began.

Croatian coach Niko Kovac tried to be reasonable.

“This referee should bury his head in a vat of sake, set it on fire and then change his nationality to Brazilian,” he said.

Actually, he didn’t say that at all.

Instead, he mused: “If we continue in this way we will have a circus. The referee was completely out of his depth.”

But was he out of his depth? Or was he merely offering a little helping hand to his hosts?

Some guests carry the plates into the kitchen. Others nuzzle up to the hostess and suggest a quickie in the barn.

Nishimura was an odd choice to participate in this game.

In World Cup 2010, he had justly sent off Brazil’s Felipe Melo for a clear stamp. He’d become a figure of hate in Brazil.

Why would he be given the opening game to referee? Unless it was, perhaps, to say sorry.

This he did with the sorriest decision conceivable.

Croatia were the better team. They made the more incisive chances. They offered the more inventive moves.

Nishimura knew that by making this decision at this particular stage of the match, he was likely affecting the game.

Though it doesn’t always seem like it, refs follow football. They watch games. They have favorite teams.

Many probably even believe they’d have been great players if it wasn’t for that youth team coach who didn’t appreciate their dribbling skills.

When they’re in the game, they’re very aware of the role they play.

Nishimura may claim that he saw what he could not have seen.

But he certainly knew what he was doing, which was likely to change the course of the game.

Though you have little time to make up your mind, you have assistants who are supposed to do more than merely wave a flag for you occasionally.

He didn’t ask for help.

He made up his mind and all of Croatia minded.

When you come from a small country, there’s an assumption you might be robbed.

There’s also the hope that it will be done with elegance, rather than such blatant incompetence — which some will interpret as plain old subterfuge.

If that’s a penalty, we don’t need to play football any more. Let’s play basketball instead,” sad Kovac.

He’s obviously been too busy recently to watch LeBron, Ginobili and the rest.


Image: TopWorldNews/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk