Referee Clattenburg opens up on coping with errors
In the hours and even days after blowing the final whistle, Mark Clattenburg endures hidden anguish as the decisions made during 90 minutes of refereeing whirl through his mind.
“If I make a mistake, it beats me up,” Clattenburg told The Associated Press during a rare interview. “It’s about being able to cope with you being wrong. I suppose that is something I struggled with in the early part of my career where I couldn’t park it and soon I’d make another mistake, another mistake and another mistake.”
Rarely is there public praise - only intense scrutiny of any mistakes - for soccer’s top referees, particularly when you have overseen football’s biggest finals in 2016 like Clattenburg and become as well known as the stars of the game.
It doesn’t take long for Clattenburg to become aware after matches when he has erred in the heat of the moment with millions watching worldwide. The social media backlash and managerial outbursts against referees are inevitable. Even if Clattenburg tried to blank out such public criticism, there are the private messages received on his phone with critiques from assessors flagging up mistakes.
“You have some video clips sent to you on your phone (in the Premier League) or in Europe you have comments on your mobile phone after the match,” the 41-year-old Englishman said. “You will know if you have done OK or not. Then you start reflecting on what you could have done differently. Nearly every game you want to do something differently.”
Clattenburg, who was entrusted with the finals of the Champions League, European Championship and FA Cup this year, consults a psychologist. “The mental strength of refereeing now is probably one of the biggest things,” he said.
Such candor is rare from English Premier League referees who are usually prevented from speaking publicly. Instead, fans make assumptions. “Some people have this perception that I’m an arrogant person but, when you are on the pitch, you have got to deal with these players differently than in life,” Clattenburg said, adding he has matured during 12 years overseeing games in the Premier League after being named referee of the year at a ceremony in Dubai.
“I am strong willed now,” Clattenburg said. “I do what I believe is correct. I’m a professional but I have to make sure I apply my personality to the pitch because you have to have personality and not robots. Players want a little bit of personality.”
Clattenburg reached the pinnacle of his profession the hard way. He was fired by the Premier League referees’ body in 2009 over business dealings but won an appeal and was reinstated. In 2014, Chelsea accused Clattenburg of making a racist remark toward midfielder John Obi Mikel and it took a month for the authorities to clear the referee of wrongdoing.
“It was a tough moment in life and the pressures were huge. It took me a little while to come back because I didn’t know if I wanted to referee or not because I lost the love for refereeing,” Clattenburg said.
The love was regained and Clattenburg feels stronger coping with pressure. And rather than just reflecting on the highs of 2016, Clattenburg now opens up about where he went wrong - starting with — AP
SEVILLE: This is a Nov. 22, 2016 file photo of English referee Mark Clattenburg of Britain as he shows a yellow card to Juventus’ Patrice Evra during the Group H Champions League soccer match between Sevilla and Juventus at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain. — AP