Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 15:17 GMT


June: The England-Argentina referee



[an error occurred while processing this directive]Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen booked his place in World Cup folklore in June, when he sent off England's David Beckham against Argentina at France 98.

He infuriated one nation, delighted another, and ensured a busy time for Denmark's postal service.

[ image:  ]

Going to the World Cup was always a goal for me and it has to be the highlight of my career to date.

England's game with Argentina was a big one and it was an honour for me to be part of it - whatever had happened between the teams in the past was not important because a referee has to start from zero and focus on that game.

I have seen the game many times on video since, and I would not change any of the decisions.

The camera sometimes lies

There were two early penalties, and the people who debate them forget they are only relying on a camera's angle.

The referee is much closer to the action and can see things far more clearly than a particular camera angle.

If there had been a camera on the opposite side to show the Michael Owen penalty it would have looked a lot different. It is very difficult to use cameras and expect them to always show you the truth.

Beckham had to go

The sending off of David Beckham was straightforward. The rules are very clear about kicking or attempting to kick an opponent.

Many people today forget that it is a red card offence. Some have said it was only a soft kick, but that does not matter.

In that situation one person has to be punished. If I had not sent him off, I would have been punished for not following the rules.

I was surprised by the reaction after the game. But the most important thing for me is I believe what I did was right.

It's only a game

Football means a lot to people in England - in Denmark we are more relaxed about it, and tend to laugh off these things.

After all, it is only football - it is a nice thing, but it is not the whole world. There are wars and places where people do not have enough food. These are far more important.

I received many letters from England, and I was most impressed by the Danish postal service. Letters addressed to "World Cup referee, Denmark" got to me!

Some of the letters from England were critical, but there were positive ones as well. I was just surprised people wanted to sit down and write to me.

It would be very difficult receiving letters from people saying I made a mistake if I did not believe I was right. But I have no doubts about them.

An exhausting match

I disallowed Sol Campbell's goal because Alan Shearer very clearly removed the goalkeeper and the Javier Zanetti handball was not intentional.

A player can't remove his arms before a game, so they have to be somewhere. There were a lot of arms going up and the ball hit the Argentinian player's arm.

It was a very busy, fast match and it needed high concentration throughout. But the second it was over I was suddenly very tired - I just had some dinner and got to bed.

Looking back at the game now the only thing I would change would be allowing Argentina to take the free kick very quickly after I had disallowed England's goal.

It was important to re-start the game to stop the English players protesting, but they were celebrating and there were only a few left in the defence. So another time I would delay the re-start a little.

For me 1998 has to be the year of the World Cup. It is the highest level of the game and only a few referees get to do it in their careers.

1998 in one word, busy. I hope for a successful '99 for my family and in football I will strive for new goals. If you have no goals you will be a bad referee. But I don't say what those goals are.

My message to English fans is start from zero. There is Euro 2000 and another World Cup to look ahead to. You can't live in the past - live for the future.
[ image:  ]





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage |


In this section

January: Scott Ritter

February: Touched by an angel

March: Jane Couch

April: Gitta Sereny

May (1): People of Northern Ireland

May (2): Mo Mowlam

June: The England-Argentina referee

July: Gill Samuels, Viagra creator

August: David Shayler

September: Neville Lawrence

October: Ann Widdecombe

November: Sally Becker

December: Deborah Hickey