Ex-ref Webb re­flects on heated 2010 Cup fi­nale

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS - KURT LAR­SON

MOSCOW — While the world dis­sected Howard Webb, the English ref­eree was con­vers­ing with his as­sis­tants.

“I re­mem­ber say­ing to my as­sis­tants over the ra­dio, ‘This is not go­ing as planned. This is not what we ex­pected,” Webb told the Toronto Sun prior to this World Cup.

It has been eight years since Webb took charge of a World Cup fi­nal that, like Sunday, also fea­tured a pair of UEFA sides at Soc­cer City, Jo­han­nes­burg.

“I got lucky when Spain won,” Webb said. “We were three min­utes away from kicks from the penalty mark to de­cide the game.”

Webb ad­mits he was, per­haps, three min­utes from hav­ing his ca­reer al­ter course.

How­ever, he doesn’t shy away from ad­dress­ing one of the most con­tro­ver­sial in­ci­dents in World Cup his­tory.

At is­sue, of course, was Webb’s de­ci­sion to cau­tion Dutch hard man Nigel de Jong when he should have been sent off for karate kick­ing Spain’s Xabi Alonso mid­way through the first half.

“The se­ri­ous foul play chal­lenge by Nigel de Jong (be­came) in­signif­i­cant,” Webb re­sponded.

But while Webb’s de­ci­sion didn’t im­pact the out­come, the for­mer Premier League dis­ci­plinar­ian says it still im­pacts him.

“I get re­minded of it quite of­ten,” he added. “If the Nether­lands would have won that game, my ca­reer would have taken a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, for sure. So I got lucky.”

Webb is one of just 20 ref­er­ees to take charge of the big­gest game on the planet. He’s among the elite group of of­fi­cials who can recount the hours lead­ing up to be­com­ing the most-watched per­son in the world.

“Look­ing back now — eight years later — it’s al­most like look­ing back on some­one else,” Webb said. “To think how you sleep the night be­fore that game know­ing what’s at stake ...

“The sport is so huge glob­ally,” he added. “It’s just such a sig­nif­i­cant thing to do.”

He was “feel­ing pretty con­fi­dent” as his team at­tended Soc­cer City the night be­fore

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