Respect the referee? In soccer? Yeah, right
The jury of 12 that will make the big decisions during the European Championship lined up in two rows, wearing new shirts, most of them in bubble gum bright colours of aqua blue, lemon peel and infrared, with every fourth sticking out like a party pooper in dark onix.
Everything appeared so orderly, quite different from the situations they will face on the field during the tournament starting on Saturday. On the referees' left sleeves was the word "respect," a commodity often lacking during and after matches.
Just ask Herbert Fandel, who will referee Saturday's match between Portugal and Turkey. When he officiated a Denmark-Sweden qualifier in Copenhagen in June 2007, he awarded a penalty kick to the visitors after the home team overcame a three-goal deficit to tie the score. A fan ran on the field and tried to attack him.
"There was no time to be shocked. It was so quick," Fandel said yesterday after a workout in this town overlooking Zurich. "Sometimes I said it's better that me, as an old horse in this race, had such an event than a younger one."
Sweden was awarded a 3-0 victory by UEFA and the fan was convicted of violence and trespassing, earning a 20-day stay in jail.
A 44-year-old music teacher from Germany, Fandel has been a referee since 1979 and has worked international matches for a decade. He doesn't dwell on what happened that day.