Referee Suspended After Kneeing Player in Groin During Soccer Match
Experts called the referee's actions “unacceptable.”
A Mexican referee has been suspended for a dozen games after getting a little too involved in a match: He kneed a player in the groin. Fernando Hernandez connected his knee with Leon midfielder Lucas Romero during a soccer league match on Sunday. Romero and his teammates had appealed to the referee to review a controversial goal by Club America that evened the score. When Romero challenged Hernandez, the ref appeared to raise his knee into the player's groin, causing him to fall to the ground, the Daily Mail reported. Read on to find out what happened to the ref and the player and what social media commenters had to say about it all.
Investigation Began Immediately
The match ended in a 2-2 tie. After the incident, the Mexican Football Federation released a statement saying an investigation had been launched. "The Referees Commission informs that an investigation process will be opened into the events that occurred with the referee Fernando Hernández in the América vs. León [match], corresponding to Matchday 13 of the Liga MX," the statement said. "The resolution will be released to public opinion."
Player Requested No Punishment
Romero actually called on the league not to punish the ref, as Hernandez told him the incident was unintentional. "Obviously [referees] are human beings. Many times they can make mistakes, and those mistakes end up developing what happened, a lot of misunderstandings," Romero told Mexican broadcaster TUDN. He added: "I'm not asking for anything. He told me it was unintentional. But just that they also respect us as we respect them on the pitch because they are the authority."
Suspensions for Everyone
But on Tuesday, a Liga MX disciplinary committee announced Hernandez would be suspended. "Fernando Hernandez Gomez, referee of the match [Club America vs. Leon], is sanctioned by the Disciplinary Committee with a 12-game suspension, for violating Article 30, paragraph g) of the FMF's [Mexican Football Federation] Regulation of Sanctions, by engaging in violent conduct against a player," it said in a statement. The committee also announced that Romero had been suspended for two games for "violating the principles of sportsmanship and fair play, through actions towards match officials," while the opposing teams' managers were also given two-game suspensions for "violent conduct." They had come to blows on the sidelines during the match.
Condemnation and an Apology
On Twitter, former referee Felipe Ramos Rizo called the referee's actions "unacceptable." "The referee kneed the Leon player. This could cost Fernando Hernandez his career. How do you explain this aggression of the referee?" he wrote. Before learning of his punishment, Hernandez issued a mea culpa for the incident. "To the fans and public in general, I offer an apology, as well as to Romero, for my reaction," he said. "I would never attack him or any other player. I am aware of this and I will abide by the decision of the Disciplinary Commission."
Social Media Responds
Several commenters on Twitter were sympathetic to the ref. "He did what every referee would love to do," one sports fan tweeted. Another wrote: "Not praising what he's done it's totally wrong but football needs to change the way it respects referees. Footballers have absolutely zero respect. The way the players are in their face and the referee is just expected to accept it. It must be hard to keep your cool at times." "Fair play to the guy. Players get right into the referee's face at every opportunity. They should show more respect to the official," opined another.
Another Player Had Been Elbowed by the Ref
The referee's work is naturally stressful, and there have been other recent incidents where a referee has attacked a player. In the United Kingdom, assistant referee Constantine Hatzidakis has been accused of elbowing Liverpool defender Andy Robertson in the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Sunday.
Robertson complained to the main referee Paul Tierney that Hatzidakis hit him in the throat. As a result, the player was shown a yellow card. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson also approached the officials to discuss the incident. Sky Sports' pitchside reporter Geoff Shreeves reported that Robertson was visibly upset and that the scenes were extraordinary. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp did not see the incident but acknowledged that it happened and said the pictures would speak for themselves.
Keith Hackett, former chief of referees, has warned that Hatzidakis may face dire consequences in his career. The incident is under investigation by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), which suspended Hatzidakis pending the outcome. Reports suggest that Hatzidakis raised his elbow and struck Robertson on the chin. The PGMOL has confirmed that Hatzidakis will not officiate any matches until the investigation is concluded.