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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK

The noble Pharaoh

By Amr Shaheen
BBC Sport Online in Cairo

Egyptian referee Gamal El Ghandour has come under fierce criticism following his performance in the Spain v South Korea World Cup quarter-final.

Ghandour ruled out what seemed to be two perfectly legitimate Spanish goals in the game - one of which would have been the golden goal that took Spain through.

Instead South Korea held on and won the match on penalties, inciting Spain coach Jose Camacho to vilify Ghandour's performance.

Misjudgement

Indeed, Ghandour incensed the president of the Spanish Football Federation, Angel Maria Villar, so much that he will resign from Fifa's referees' committee at the end of the World Cup in protest.

But describing the high-profile referee as an inexperienced figure is a misjudgement.

Ghandour's performance was no worse than that of familiar European officials like Graham Poll, Hugh Dallas - or even the Spaniard Lopez Nito, who totally ruined the match between Germany and Cameroon in the first round.

Ghandour started out his career as a player at the age of 15 with second division club Madinet Nasr.

Seven years later he took up refereeing, and by 1993 he was an international official at the age of just 34.

He good showing at the African Youth Championship in Nigeria in 1995 led to his being chosen for the World Championship for Youth in the same year in Qatar.

Top ref

Four consecutive African Cups of Nations followed, starting with South Africa 1996, where he officiated the semi-final match between South Africa and Ghana.

He was the top referee two years later in Burkina Faso and only prevented from officiating the final because of Egypt's qualification.

Four years later he rectified this by taking charge of the 2002 final between Cameroon and Senegal.

He has also twice been a World Cup final referee, having officiated at France '98 as well as this year's tournament.

The total of six matches that he has taken charge of is an African record.

And he was also an official at Euro 2000 - where he took charge of the Spain v Norway match that ended in a shock win for the Scandinavians.

And the man who berated him as he left the pitch that day was one Jose Camacho...


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