Referee: from World Cup, Argentina to blown ceiling – CNN

Written by By, Marcus Warner, CNN

The words render a power of mystical potency over Hugo Blick’s immensely powerful photo essay: “Argentina, 2002. Soccer World Cup. Referee, Hugo Blick. Refereeing — football — a sport [where] is risks to health.”

We begin in the Argentine airport by a one-way plane landing in front of the entrance of the massive transport hall, as international dignitaries await the arrival of the football teams. They arrive, heads of state like Richard Branson, in their elaborately sequined shirts, before ensconced in motorcades and taxis — kitted out by their haute couture teams.

The helicopters take off to the elaborate night-sky spot where thousands will be waiting to catch their first glimpse of celebrities, sporting figures and hosts. Kick-off, the commentator announces as they all warm up.

Not so long ago, Michel Platini was reported to have said “One of my biggest regrets is that I never officiated a World Cup final,” and this number, from 16 years ago, expresses the fear that the beautiful game is destined to become the beautiful suffering of the ruling.

Video Courtesy Hugo Blick, Copyright. Cistercian Academy Buenos Aires.

Amidst the David vs. Goliath matches, the fatigue, the adulation and often the plumes of tear gas, one hangs over the whole spectacle; the referee, Hugo Blick.

Four years after the South Africa World Cup, this photomontage has remained on the walls of Blick’s Argentine home. It has become one of those icons that he tells us he took to him to help him, in one of those moments of Greek tragedy.

“We were inside the president’s kitchen when an exploded, exploded,” he tells us. “We went outside to see if anything had happened — the mayor had declared an emergency — and we found that something had. It was a big crack in the guard house.”

The devastated building had to be demolished, partly because the owner had made the poor decision of putting the engineer “for lack of funds” on the roof. Blick became one of the first World Cup referees to sue his building, which ended up spending a lot of money on the finer points of renovation, but not one penny on an ergonomic wall clock. “The thing they’re trying to do to improve their life is not actually improving anybody’s life,” he says.

All this is played out within the bustling confines of those World Cup quarter-finals, with a boundless, chaotic energy born of knowledge that anything could happen.

And it happened. In 2002, during France ’98, Blick also became the most experienced World Cup referee in history.

Video Courtesy Hugo Blick, Copyright. Cistercian Academy Buenos Aires.

Blick, however, was repeatedly at the center of scandals. In 1997, one of the most notorious was in the Portugal-Italy match. The undisputed winner was Borja Valero. But at one point, he scored in the yellow box, and was subsequently shown the red card. The Italian coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, accused him of “cheating” his own player by calling off his opponent’s match. Blick has now told us how this prompted a meeting with soccer legend Pelé, who was demanding that the referee be banned for life.

Years earlier, in 1990, the referee of the Netherlands vs. Brazil match, Erwin van Wolkenberg, got the Italian Juventus team thrown out of the World Cup and expelled from the tournament after he ordered the red card of the Juventus striker, Alberto Gilardino. At the end of the match, Van Wolkenberg appeared to recognize he’d made a mistake, and walk over to Gilardino, who he celebrated the yellow card by kissing. But the referee’s manager was furious, leaving a long arm around Gilardino’s shoulders and a whispered message to the referee; “go on, do it again!”

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