Jose Ramiz Wright, the Brazilian referee in charge of England’s World Cup semi-final against West Germany in 1990, speaks for the first time about his role in provoking Gazza’s tears, how Chris Waddle’s penalty miss still rankles and why he wanted England to win.
“It was a world football derby, a game full of history,” says Wright, whose surname betrays his English roots. “I had to be really sharp but I must confess that somewhere in my mind I was hoping England could win. Not because my great-grandfather was English, I swear. Only with England in the final could I have a chance to referee that game. The Germans would never want a Brazilian referee again after losing in two finals refereed by my fellow countrymen [in 1982 and 1986]. England almost did it but that fella with the funny hair [Chris Waddle] sent his penalty almost outside the stadium and the Germans went through.” Though there was a strangely muted penalty appeal when Waddle was brought down in the first half, the most discussed decision that day involved Paul Gascoigne, who was booked for a foul on Thomas Berthold in extra time. “Listen, there was no controversy,” says Wright. “The lad tackled an opponent from behind and nowadays he could even have been sent off. It was none of my business if Gascoigne already had a yellow card. My job was to apply the laws of the game. If I hadn’t cautioned him, I would have lost control of the game. “I didn’t see him crying or all that commotion. Only later I saw images of the game and noticed how upset he was. Years later I read that Gascoigne’s tears were some kind of watershed moment in English football when people fell in love again with the game. In a way I was happy to be part of such a historical occasion and I don’t think Gazza has a problem either. A few months ago somebody from England called me asking if I could donate a memento of that game for a Gascoigne museum. I might actually give them the yellow card I used. Yeah, I still have it.”
Wright remembers being dismayed at the fitness level of the other referees when they met before the tournament. “They seemed to be just going for strolls while I was doing proper aerobic exercises. Some of them might not have considered me Mr. Nice Guy but in the end I was the first referee to take charge of four games in one World Cup. “And they all took place without major incidents. My first match was Italy v Austria and I remember a packed stadium turning against me when Toto Schilacci tried to win a penalty. I also refereed USSR v Cameroon in the group stage and Ireland v Romania in the round of 16. That game also went to a penalty shootout and I can still remember how happy the Irish were when they went through.” Wright admits to only a significant regret about his time in Italy: “The semi-final was a cracking game, the kind every referee wants to be involved in and the biggest occasion of my career,” he says. “I’m still annoyed with the English guy with the funny hair, though. Because of his horrendous penalty I couldn’t even keep the match ball”.
Source: The Guardian