THE MAN IN BLACK -
Celebrity Visit; A Lunch of Two Halves. One eating, one paying attention to the ref...
Graham Poll's mother did it one Sunday morning and still managed to be home in time to put the potatoes on for Sunday lunch. What I hear you ask? Refereeing of course!
I guess if her son did that whilst refereeing a Premier League football match his commitment may be questioned, maybe David Beckham would have wanted to pop back home too. It could have started a whole new multi-tasking approach to the game. After all it is a game of two halves, so why not?
It seems that I am destined to continue my football learning curve here under the Riviera sun. First the Prince's Charity against the Grand Prix Team and now I have yet another chance to get my head round the off side rule. I have to say Graham was little help on this as he didn't have a salt & pepper set to illustrate the finer points. So I am still a little hazy on it.
Graham Poll, a world class football referee was in Monaco to give an after lunch talk on his career. This event, organised by Azur Productions was held at Café de Paris and well attended by both sexes, no doubt intent on hearing first hand from Graham of his successes and, it has to be said, monumentally flawed decision at the World Cup in 2006.
Anna & I had the great pleasure of talking to yet another Graham - we have two of our own, as it that's not enough - before the lunch began. I was curious to know why football is such a male-dominated sport and officialdom, specifically refereeing even more so. I wondered if it's because historically women have been thought pathologically incapable of making a decision. Graham, having the experience of a long married man, countered with women would never get on to the pitch as they would never be able to decide what to wear. Hmmm… then I thought, he can say this and he hasn't seen my bedroom floor strewn with outfits tried and discarded for attending this lunch. The man's a genius! Actually the conversation then took a serious turn and he acknowledged that it is something of an anomaly and anachronism that football is such a male bastion. It is as if it has ducked under the political correctness and equal opportunities radar and quietly continues. Yet, womens' football is one of the four fastest growing sports, so men had better start watching out for ball kicking women!
Listening to Graham, it was apparent that one must have a great love of the game to be a referee. It is a hiding to nothing, the man in black does not earn the hugely inflated fees that footballers do, the income of around £70,000 does not seem much compensation for the abuse taken. It takes a strong sense of self to be able to take the aggression during the match, then leave it behind in the shower afterwards. Graham also credits his wife with being a great help in disassociating himself from the negativity on field.
Never more so when his nemesis came in the form of the three card trick. I think still Graham is as hazy about the why he gave a player three yellow cards as I am about the offside rule. Sadly, his decision during the 2006 World Cup scuppered his chances of refereeing the Final and it almost cost him his entire career. On reflection Graham firmly attributes the understanding of his wife and such players as David Beckham for getting him through the dark days that followed. For someone like me who has never understood the magnitude of the game, the idea of being more that 'life or death' came across. To some it is. Graham now realises that since leaving the game, Bill Shankly's famous saying is not true, there are many more important things in life.
I learned a lot from Graham, I never knew referees had such a sense of humour. He does. I didn't know how handsome they look in a suit rather than shorts. He did. I never knew referees were inspirational speakers. He is.
Feature contributed by Wendy
on October 13, 2009 at 10:41 pm.