I was neither disappointed nor surprised by the World Cup Final. A tempestuous match in which Holland, predictably, tried to cancel out the higher skill level of the Spanish through endeavour, sweat and passion.
Not surprising then that this spilled over into what some media people described as ‘thuggery’. In the heat of battle the lines drawn are not very clear. But it was the performance of the English officials which impressed me most.
Sure, the Dutch complained bitterly and several players have rubbished the referee in public, claiming he was not up to the task. But in Howard Webb, who described the game as ‘emotionally draining’ and ‘the most difficult two hours of my entire career’, I saw great leadership skills. Kipling would have been impressed at how he ‘ kept his head’ while all about were losing theirs and blaming it on him.
Jack Taylor, the last English man to take charge of a World Cup Final, suggested that many other referees would have been in real trouble and the game could have finished in ‘total disarray’. Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League, agreed. ‘It was clearly an extremely difficult game to referee. Thank goodness Howard was refereeing it.’ Here here.
Webb chose calm de-escalation when escalation might have proved fatal. He always appeared in control when inside he must have been reeling. He balanced firm discipline with sympathy and displayed that most elusive of leadership qualities, common sense.