Ex-ref Webb reflects on heated 2010 Cup finale
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