In the Azonto Epistle 5, where we decided to focus on the match versus United and forget about the media whines against our club due to the John Terry Saga, the first question we talked of was the referee who will officiate the match since we were playing against Manchester United; a club which has consistently benefited
from referees’ poor decisions. It was a case of De Javu and it lived up to our expectation and even exceedingly. I have witnessed poor officiating from Anders Frisk, Phil Dowd, Howard Webb, Mark Halsey, Tom Henin Ovrebo and many others but what happened at Stamford Bridge by Mark Clatternberg on 28th
October, 2012 can only be challenged by what Tom Henin Ovrebo did against us in 2009 when we met Barcerlona at the Bridge.
Such was the farcical nature of his decisions that at the end of the day, the fans of the team which benefitted from it became so ashamed that, they found it difficult to celebrate and to even talk about it. The world was ready to watch a great match between the Champions of Europe and a big title rival United. The stage was set for an epic display of good football from the two EPL giants who have boosted their teams with top class players. The main actors of the game the attention was supposed to be on, were the players; the likes of Van Persie, who within a space of 12 minutes had proven to the world why he is the best striker; then came an inspirational fighting spirit of the young Chelsea boys whose display of skills, wizardry, talent, intelligence and finesse led by the architects, Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Ramires had pushed United’s back to the wall with all 10 of their outfield players defending for their life. The scene became so beautiful before the end of the first half when Chelsea were pushing for the equalizer with intense pressure, David Luiz edged the home fans to intensify their support. At that point to the first 5 minutes into the second half after Chelsea had secured the equalizer, the game was so opened and the neutrals had braced themselves up for a thrilling end of the match.
However, it was not to be, the referee, Mark Clatternberg decided to put himself at the centre stage and gain all the media attention of the players. As if Ivanovic’s straight red card was not harsh enough, he decided to weaken our team further by showing Torres who had been seriously brought down another red card. At this point the game had lost its competitive character and the wise thing to do was to take out good players like Oscar, Mata and Hazard who were the main gem of the game. Even with 9 players, boys decided to take the game to United who had proven so coward until Chelsea had taken off their main attacking hub. To add salt to injury, the referees allowed a clear offside goal to stand. Now the BIG question is WHY ALWAYS UNITED???
Why is it that Manchester United alone has been at the centre stage of countless number of referees’ “poor decisions” and they have also been the beneficiaries of most of these decisions? I try very hard not to sound as a conspiracy theory but just as I said before the match, United’s referees’ benefits have been too consistent to be coincidence. I was reading statistics which shows how referees who have officiated United’s match to the dislike of Alex Ferguson have been withdrawn from officiating their match and any time they are allowed to come back and officiated their match, the outcome of the match become so controversial due to the way the referees tend to favour United as if they own them a debt. In our case, the last time Mark Clatternberg officiated United’s match was the one they were humiliated 1-6 by City where Ferguson declared it is the most embarrassing match of his life as a manager due to the rivalry involved and the score line. Johny Evans was shown the red card in that match and it opened the flood gate for City to score more goals. Since then, a year and 38 matches have passed and Clattenberg who is touted to be the 2nd best referee in the EPL has never handled United’s match, which is strange and suspicious considering the number of referees in the EPL and the matches involved. Clatternberg was bound to follow the footsteps of many referees who had been given the opportunity to redeem themselves and be in the good books of Alex Ferfuson and he did it with so perfection that I believe the first phone call he will receive in the morning will come from the boss himself (Ferguson) congratulating him for a job well done.
The Power and Influence of Sir Alex Ferguson:
He has been knighted by the queen, has been in his business longer than anybody and as a result is well networked and connected than any other person in the game in England. He is the only person who can refuse to grant interview to BBC and still survive the media; he has banned so many journalists from his press conference for asking him questions he did not want; he is the friend of top politicians in U.K and his mere age can coil you into submission and sympathy. At this point, for anyone to suggest Ferguson is just like any other Manager with equal privileges in England is either naïve or ignorant of how human institution works which is also naivety. He has grown wary of the fact that he has not had his own way at the Bridge for a decade to defeat Chelsea and he would not retire until he broke that hunting record at Stamford Bridge. Journalists who had the opportunity to hear what Fergie said after their winner said, he turned to his bench and said “we have waited for a decision at this place for ten years and now we have it”. what “decision” was Ferguson talking about? He always lamented about referees any time he came to the Bridge and at a point described referee Atkinson as not strong enough to officiate a match involving Chelsea and United. Although he was charged for those comments by the FA, since then, United have been the beneficiaries of referees “blander” any time they meet Chelsea. Last season was Howard Webb, a referee the entire world know his colours and he handed them 2 soft penalties to help them come from 3 goals down. At Old Trafford, Chris Smalling had scored an offside goal to put United ahead. The issue is that, Sir Alex Ferguson has a big influence on referees and even the FA that
he is always at the good end of referees supposed inefficiencies. It might not involve a clear cut corruption or bribery like what happened in Italy but it is something so engrained in the system for so long that it has become an institutionalized norm and this is so difficult to expose. The truth is that this is not the first and it will not be the last; as far as Alex Ferguson continues to be the manager of Manchester United, they are bound to get all the favours from the referees as well as the FA backing.
My Appeal to Roman Abramovic:
After investing hugely in Chelsea as well as the English economy, it is pathetic to see your team being robbed in daylight by referees under your full glare. If you think you are hurt as a Chelsea fan what went on at Stamford Bridge by the referee, try to put yourself in the shoes of Roman Abramovic and you will know how painful and disgusting it is to own a club within such an environment. Some idiots who call themselves fans of other clubs can choose to criticize Roman Abramovic for the way he spend on Chelsea but if you live in England and appreciate the support this “crazy spending” is doing to their economy and the employment it has created, you will shut tour stinking mouth. All the players Chelsea pay them “crazy wages” also pay taxes to the state and if you will criticize such an economic supporting investment by Chelsea and even City it means you are not supposed to receive any attention when you are spewing trash about Chelsea or Roman Abramovic. My appeal to Roman is that he should remain calm and defiant of all these frustrations. I strongly believe there is more to this consistent United favors from referees than mere coincidence. if the managers of other clubs will come together to protest against such institutionalized favoritism towards the one club, it will go a long way to putting pressure on the faceless persons behind this whole scandal to stop it as it is killing the competitive nature of the EPL.
Clatternberg’s alleged use of “Inappropriate language” against Chelsea players:
Just after the controversial match had ended in an anti-climax due to the referee’s abysmal display of showmanship, Mark Clatternberg was accused of using inappropriate language which was directed to 2 Chelsea players. It is reported by some media houses that he allegedly called Mata “a spanish t**t” and racially abused Obi Mikel. Some have suggested Chelsea should not involve itself in anymore racial issues and should not have reported. The issue is that, after the match, Mikel accompanied by Ron Gourley and RDM stormed the referees’ room to demand apology which he refused. At this point, it would have been foolish and risky on Chelsea’s part to keep the issue to themselves after Mikel had felt so strong about it and it is reported some Chelsea players are ready to testify to the truth of it. it would have destroyed the ethos and anti-racial discrimination stance of the club and proved to the players that Chelsea are not serious about such issues which have ruined the team and if later uncovered, it would have been a big indictment on the club once again. We should not fear to do the right thing. The issue of racism is hanging aroud our neck like an albatross and the earlier we dealt with it with all seriousness the better for the game of football and peaceful coexistence of mankind. It is difficult to understand why people’s view about this is quite different from that of Evra vs Suarez or Anton vs Terry. People decided Terry was guilty even before watching the footage and going to court. United fans who today are shifting goal post decided Suarez was guilty when there was no footage of wrong doing until a few weeks after the game. This just goes to show how tribalistic and bias people who get involved in footballing debate are. Things would be different if the roles were reversed here. My understanding is that Chelsea would be extremely silly to report something they know didn’t happen. It doesn’t matter the club or the person involved, if there has been a wrongdoing of this scale, you should have the right to report it. We all need to see the deatail of the report conclude on the matter and have a candid opinion about it. clatternberg in his line of duty showed a crass incompetence and it puts a big doubt on his morality and credibility as a person and that this accusation isn’t completely impossible that it occurred. Not one but 2 persons have complained and the character of the victims alleged to be involve are unquestionable. Let’s see if the FA will have the same temerity to deal with this issue as they did to Terry or Suarez.
The strength of Chelsea:
It is not all gloom; there is clear light at the end of the tunnel. Any neutral who watched the match attests to the mental strength of our team to bounce back from adversity and if the referee had decided the game to flow as should have normally been the case, Chelsea would have undoubtedly beaten United to their own game of comebacks. The fighting spirit of the boys and the display of artistic and mouthwatering football which had reminded everyone of Chelsea vs Barcerlona at the Camp Nou although in this case Chelsea were still Chelsea when it comes to officiating but interms of display we made United park the bus in front of their pole and Rooney had become centre back. It was delirious to watch Hazard teach him a few lessons as an attacker. Oscar was at his best and United could not handle him; Mata showed why he is the man of the moment in the EPL and he has no rivals, not even from his Spanish compatriots in other teams. His exquisite free and top class free kick summed it up, the quality he possesses. All is not lost after we lost so unfairly to a side we could have easily defeated and people should not think our league position is under threat, if anything at all, this match will be a confidence boost to the team that we are stronger than we think we are and if we start as we end in our last matches we can win the league with huge margin. Keep the hopes alive for this roller coaster journey.
Let me end with the popular quote by Gary Neville, former player and captain of Manchester United who is now a soccer pundit on Sky about the match: “The referee killed the game and the better team deserved to win, which was Chelsea and not Manchester United”
Seth Adusei (twitter @sethaadusei)