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Urs Meier responds

I've criticized Meier, but his decision might possibly have been right - see the picture in the linked article, thought it's still not conclusive.

Nevertheless, given the reaction to his call, he deserves his due in this space.

'It was horrible. English people are not like that'

"I am completely shocked at the reaction, But I stand by my decision. It was a clear foul (John Terry on Ricardo, the Portuguese goalkeeper) and not a point of discussion."

Meier has refereed in England many times, both in internationals and Champions League matches. "I love English football," he said. "It is fantastic, the intensity is like nowhere in the world, but this is a black point in my life, seriously, I really do not understand it. I refereed the England v Romania game in Euro 2000 and gave the penalty against England; there was no discussion about this. I have always believed in the English approach to football, positive but fair. There were over 30,000 English supporters in the stadium for the Portugal game, I did not receive one threat or hear of any trouble after the game, and I wonder, who are these people?"

His frustration poured out as he continued; "How do you deal with such attacks? I know UEFA will hold an inquiry but how can they protect a referee in these circumstances? I was badly criticised by the Romanian press after some decisions I made during a game between Denmark and Romania. They called me a bandit. OK, I didn't like it, but no one came to my house or threatened to kill me.

"Look", he said reasonably, "I understand the disappointment and a referee's mistake is sometimes the easiest way to explain a defeat. This I accept, but right or wrong, this is not a normal reaction".

Meier, 45, has officiated in two World Cups, two European Championships and a Champions League final. At the end of this year he retires.

``In my opinion it was a fantastic Euro, the tournament for the little teams," he said, "and I think the referees have been excellent. I enjoyed the three games I refereed and I enjoyed being there. I didn't mind who won, you always need a bit of luck. You know it was so close that game, Portugal v England," here his voice faltered again, "I wanted a good memory from the tournament, but that's football, I suppose."

"I hope it stops now," he said, "and we can get on with our lives. You know it was horrible, but I never would have expected something like this from England, and I really don't believe this is typical. English people aren't like that."

Meier deserves better, particularly from the English press, who have a horrible record. If the English tabloids were based in America, imagine the hue and cry from Europe in response to their jingoistic escapades! Still, given the "push" statements and physical gestures by Meier at the end of the 90 minutes, I wonder whether he blew the whisle on account of his perception or his imagination.

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