World Cup final referee Howard Webb arrived home in England on Tuesday insisting he had done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of his ability.
The English official has come in for criticism from some quarters, notably from some Dutch players, over his handling of Sunday’s final, one of the dirtiest in the history of the World Cup.
He handed out a record 14 yellow cards and sent off Holland’s Everton defender John Heitinga during Spain’s fractious 1-0 win.
The Yorkshireman arrived home from South Africa with his assistants Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey to a barrage of media interest in their performance at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
In a statement released through the Premier League he said: “Whatever the match, you always hope that the officials won’t need to be heavily involved. However, we had to raise our profile in order to keep control.”
“We don’t feel that we had much choice except to manage the game in the way we did. We came away feeling satisfied that we’d done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of our abilities,” he said. “It was an extremely challenging match to handle, but it would have been so for any referee. It is one of the toughest games we will ever be involved in and we feel that we worked hard to keep the focus on the football as much as possible.”
The Dutch players have been widely criticized for their behavior during the final — during which Bert van Marwijk’s side committed a rash of heavy-handed challenge — including by former Holland legend Johann Cruyff.
Holland were fortunate not to lose midfielder Nigel de Jong to a straight red card in the first half for a high challenge on Xabi Alonso. However, despite Webb’s leniency on that occasion, his performance nevertheless incensed the Dutch, and he was confronted by several players after the final whistle.
“From early on in the match we had to make decisions that were clear yellow cards,” Webb said. “We tried to apply some common sense officiating given the magnitude of the occasion for both sides — advising players early on for some of their tackling, sending players away when they were surrounding the officials, and speaking to their senior colleagues to try to calm them down.”
Despite the furor that has followed Sunday’s final, Webb insists he has come away from South Africa harboring “amazing memories.”
“It was a marvelous honor to have been selected for the tournament and we had a wonderful six weeks in South Africa,” he said. “The people made us feel really welcome and we’ve hugely enjoyed the experience of being involved in such an incredible and unique event.”
“We left the 2010 World Cup with amazing memories. We have been overwhelmed by the support of the public, the media, friends, colleagues, players and managers before and after the final,” he said. “It was a massive honor and a privilege to take charge of the World Cup final. It is something every referee dreams of and to fulfill that dream was a remarkable feeling.”
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