UEFA Champions League 2020/2021 – Group Stage (Matchday 5)

1 December 2020 
Liverpool FC – AFC Ajax 
Referee: Tobias Stieler (GER, photo)
Assistant Referee 1: Mike Pickel (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Christian Gittelmann (GER)
Fourth Official: Marco Fritz (GER)
VAR: Bastian Dankert (GER)
AVAR: Harm Osmers (GER) 
Referee Observer: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) 

Lokomotiv Moskva – FC Salzburg 
Referee: Ali Palabiyik (TUR)
Assistant Referee 1: Ceyhun Sesigüzel (TUR)
Assistant Referee 2: Serkan Olguncan (TUR)
Fourth Official: Arda Kardeşler (TUR)
VAR: Abdulkadir Bitigen (TUR)
AVAR: Mete Kalkavan (TUR)
Referee Observer: Emil Bozhinovski (MKD) 

Shakhtar Donetsk – Real Madrid
Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan (ROU)
Assistant Referee 1: Octavian Șovre (ROU)
Assistant Referee 2: Sebastian Gheorghe (ROU)
Fourth Official: Sebastian Colţescu (ROU)
VAR: Pawel Gil (POL)
AVAR: Marcin Borkowski (POL)
Referee Observer: Karen Nalbandyan (ARM)

Atletico de Madrid – Bayern München
Referee: Clement Turpin (FRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Nicolas Danos (FRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Cyril Gringore (FRA)
Fourth Official: Frank Schneider (FRA)
VAR: François Letexier (FRA)
AVAR: Jerôme Brisard (FRA)
Referee Observer: Fritz Stuchlik (AUT)

Borussia Mönchengladbach – Internazionale Milano
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Mario Diks (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Hessel Steegstra (NED)
Fourth Official: Ivan Kružliak (SVK)
VAR: Kevin Blom (NED)
AVAR: Jochem Kamphuis (NED)
Referee Observer: Cyril Zimmermann (SUI)

Olympique de Marseille – Olympiacos FC
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Angel Nevado Rodriguez (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Jose Naranjo Perez (ESP)
Fourth Official: Fabio Maresca (ITA)
VAR: Ricardo De Burgos Bengoechea (ESP)
AVAR: Inigo Prieto Lopez (ESP)
Referee Observer: Costas Kapitanis (CYP)

FC Porto – Manchester City
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Sander van Roekel (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Erwin Zeinstra (NED)
Fourth Official: Lawrence Visser /(BEL)
VAR: Pol van Boekel (NED)
AVAR: Rob Dieperink (NED)
Referee Observer: Sandor Piller (HUN)

Atalanta BC – FC Midtjylland
Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos (GRE)
Assistant Referee 1: Polychronis Kostaras (GRE)
Assistant Referee 2: Lazaros Dimitriadis (GRE)
Fourth Official: Ioannis Papadopoulos (GRE)
VAR: Christian Dingert (GER)
AVAR: Bibiana Steinhaus (GER)
Referee Observer: Nikolai Levnikov (RUS)

2 December 2020
FC Krasnodar – Stade Rennais
Referee: William Collum (SCO)
Assistant Referee 1: Francis Connor (SCO)
Assistant Referee 2: David McGeachie (SCO)
Fourth Official: Nicolas Walsh (SCO)
VAR: Paul Tierney (ENG)
AVAR: Constantine Hatzidakis (ENG)
Referee Observer: Boško Jovanetić (SRB)

Istanbul Başakşehir – RB Leipzig
Referee: Carlos Del Cerro Grande (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Juan Yuste Jimenez (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Roberto Alonso Fernandez (ESP)
Fourth Official: Guilllermo Cuadra Fernandez (ESP)
VAR: Juan Martinez Munuera (ESP)
AVAR: Diego Barbero Sevilla (ESP)
Referee Observer: Darko Čeferin (SVN)

Sevilla FC – Chelsea FC
Referee: Artur Soares Dias (POR)
Assistant Referee 1: Rui Licinio (POR)
Assistant Referee 2: Paulo Soares (POR)
Fourth Official: Hugo Miguel (POR)
VAR: Tiago Martins (POR)
AVAR: Luis Godinho (POR)
Referee Observer: Peter Sippel (GER)

Borussia Dortmund – Lazio
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Pau Cebrian Devis (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Roberto Diaz Perez (ESP)
Fourth Official: Jose Munuera Montero (ESP)
VAR: Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez (ESP)
AVAR: Jose Sanchez Martinez (ESP)
Referee Observer: Uno Tutk (EST)

Club Brugge – FC Zenit
Referee: Serdar Gozübüyük (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Joost van Zuilen (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Johan Balder (NED)
Fourth Official: Allard Lindhout (NED)
VAR: Dennis Higler (NED)
AVAR: Bas Nijhuis (NED)
Referee Observer: Vladimir Medved (SVK)

Juventus – Dynamo Kyiv
Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Hicham Zakrani (FRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Mehdi Rahmouni (FRA)
Fourth Official: Karim Abed (FRA)
VAR: Benoît Millot (FRA)
AVAR: Willy Delajod (FRA)
Referee Observer: Francesco Bianchi (SUI)

Ferencvarosi TC – FC Barcelona
Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov (BLR)
Assistant Referee 1: Dzmitri Zhuk (BLR)
Assistant Referee 2: Aleh Maslianka (BLR)
Fourth Official: Viktar Shimusik (BLR)
VAR: Vitali Meshkov (RUS)
AVAR: Sergei Ivanov (RUS)
Referee Observer: Lutz-Michael Fröhlich (GER)

Manchester United – Paris Saint Germain
Referee: Daniele Orsato (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Alessandro Giallatini (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Fabiano Preti (ITA)
Fourth Official: Daniele Doveri (ITA)
VAR: Marco Guida (ITA)
AVAR: Marco Di Bello (ITA)
Referee Observer: Martin Ingvarsson (SWE)

Frappart to become first woman to referee in men's Champions League

Stephanie Frappart to referee Juventus vs Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday. She was unfazed about becoming the first woman to referee a major men's European match last year before the UEFA Super Cup final.
French referee Stephanie Frappart will become the first-ever female official to referee a men's Champions League game when she oversees Juventus vs Dynamo Kiev on December 2. The 36-year-old became the first woman to referee a major men's European match when she took charge of the UEFA Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea in 2019. Frappart also officiated the 2019 Women's World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands and became the first female referee to take charge of a French Ligue 1 match when Amiens played Strasbourg in April last year. She oversaw her first Europa League game in October when Leicester City hosted Zorya Luhansk. Speaking last year prior to her debut men's European game, Frappart said she was aware of the meaning behind her appointment and wanted to demonstrate that women are just as good as their male counterparts. Switzerland's Nicole Petignat was the first female referee to officiate in UEFA matches when she was put in charge of three UEFA Cup qualifying round games between 2004 and 2009.
Juventus, who have already qualified for the last 16, are second in Group G with nine points from four games, eight points clear of Dynamo Kiev and three behind Barcelona, who face Ferencvaros on Wednesday.

Source: Reuters

Professional referee contracts in Spain

At the beginning of September 2020, all the referees and assistant referees of Spanish professional football signed their first contract with the RFEF that regulates their employment relationship for one year. A historic milestone with the start date on 1 September 1 and ending on 30 June. 

Minimum requirements and fees 
In the First Division, referees must have a minimum 9 years of experience as a referee, with at least 1 year as a Second Division referee. In the case of the assistant referees, they must have minimum 5 years of experience, with at least 1 year in the second category. In the Second Division, the required experience is reduced to 7 years, 1 being in Second B and for the assistants it is reduced to 3 years, with 1 year in the third category of Spanish football. For VARs and AVARs, a 9-year experience as a referee is required, with at least 1 year in the First or Second division. This new contract establishes the amounts to be received by the referees, assistant referees, VARs or AVARs. In this case, it is a gross annual remuneration of 114,121 euros divided into 10 payments from which the Social Security contribution is deducted. The match fee for a First Division referee is around 4,300 euros. The amount drops to 1,928 euros in the Second Division. The match fee for VAR is 2,100 euros in the First Division and 964 euros in the Second Division. For AVARs, the fee is 964 euros in the First Division and 464 euros in the Second Division. The contract also implies the transfer of their individual and collective image rights to the RFEF, receiving in exchange the gross amount of 22,842 euros. 

Mandatory self-analysis within 48 hours 
The contract sets out a series of requirements that must be met by all of them in each game and that go through carrying out the physical-tactical preparation of each game (something they were already doing before signing this document), spending the night before the match in the city where it is held (a situation that has now been due to Covid, allowing travel on the same day, as long as the match allows it). In addition, there must be a prior and subsequent meeting with the refereeing team and the ones assigned in the VOR room. The latter must be done by videoconference. The contract also includes the obligation to analyze and study the video of each match within a period not exceeding 48 hours after the conclusion of the match. Within that period, they also have to send a self-analysis report to the CTA with highlights of the match, things to improve and consolidated aspects. 

Physical and technical preparation 
In the 16-page document there are aspects related to the physical, technical and medical requirements, in order to achieve the best physical and technical condition of all of them. All referees and assistant referees must pass the fitness tests called by the CTA in addition to having to carry out a series of tasks from the technical point of view in order to improve the refereeing. It is about video tests, discussion tests, online training modules, laws of the game tests, VAR protocol and federative regulations; training on different protocols against racism, violence, xenophobia etc. In November will take place the second fitness test of this current season, after each referee passed the first one within their territorial federation as a result of Covid. The physical section also includes a very exhaustive work "planning" that everyone must comply with, which goes through a minimum of six training sessions a week where there must be up to four types of training (match, active recovery, high intensity and cardiac), including a minimum of 12 minutes of high intensity training that must be performed in each session. In addition, each day they must fill in a metric on their weight, heart rate at rest, hours of sleep and quality of sleep, perception of fatigue and mood. Data that must be incorporated into a platform that CTA will evaluate weekly. In the medical field, together with the control prior to each season, they must undergo a weight and body mass control every month, and must be within the limits set by the CTA. They must also notify the Committee of any injury, illness, abnormality. Furthermore, the contract obliges the referees to attend any requirement of the Disciplinary Committees or any other federative body, in addition to participating in interviews, mixed zones or any event organized by the RFEF communication area. 

Working days of 1800 hours per year 
Point two of the clauses makes it clear that "the worker who does not participate in one of the mandatory activities, or does not appear without just cause, as well as the abandonment of a test or activity, meeting or seminar without the authorization of CTA, will incur an immediate suspension of any referee appointment". The working days are estimated by the contract at around 1792 hours per year distributed around 24 hours per week derived from trips to the matches, either as a referee, assistant referee or VAR. Another 12 hours are devoted to training, at the rate of three or four a day. Four more are added for the self-analysis tasks with the viewing of the game and the corresponding report. In total, and always with a variable character, about 40 hours a week of work with weekly rest of at least a day and a half. They also have the right to 30 days of vacation either continuously or fractionally, conditional on competitions. 

Other activities allowed during first year 
Among the reasons for terminating the contract is that it occurs by mutual agreement between the parties, due to disciplinary dismissal, death or disability. There is also the option for the worker to request it voluntarily, due to the loss of the professional referee's license resulted from downgrading from the category or for not passing the physical or technical tests during two consecutive phases. This first year allows referees to combine their refereeing duties with other activities, ceasing to receive around 15,000 euros. 

Source: Iusport

CONMEBOL Libertadores 2020 – Round of 16 (Second Leg)

1-3 December 2020 

Santos – LDU Quito
Referee: Nestor Pitana (ARG, photo)
Assistant Referee 1: Diego Bonfa (ARG)
Assistant Referee 2: Gabriel Chade (ARG)
Fourth Official: Christian Aleman (BOL)
VAR: Mauro Vigliano (ARG)
AVAR: Fernando Espinoza (ARG)
VAR Observer: Roberto Perassi (BRA)
Referee Assessor: Ednilson Corona (BRA)

River Plate – Athletico Paranaense
Referee: Jesus Valenzuela (VEN)
Assistant Referee 1: Lubin Torrealba (VEN)
Assistant Referee 2: Jorge Urrego (VEN)
Fourth Official: Juan Soto (VEN)
VAR: Cristian Garay (CHI)
AVAR: Piero Maza (CHI)
VAR Observer: Hernan Maidana (ARG)
Referee Assessor: Ricardo Casas (ARG)

Flamengo – Racing Club
Referee: Roberto Tobar (CHI)
Assistant Referee 1: Christian Schiemann (CHI)
Assistant Referee 2: Claudio Urrutia (CHI)
Fourth Official: Guillermo Guerrero (ECU)
VAR: Julio Bascunan (CHI)
AVAR: Raul Orellana (CHI)
VAR Observer: Sergio Correa (BRA)
Referee Assessor: Sergio Cristiano (BRA)

Jorge Wilstermann – Libertad
Referee: Patricio Loustau (ARG)
Assistant Referee 1: Ezequiel Brailovsky (ARG)
Assistant Referee 2: Julio Fernandez (ARG)
Fourth Official: Andres Merlos (ARG)
VAR: Fernando Rapallini (ARG)
AVAR: Facundo Tello (ARG)
VAR Observer: Juan Lugones (BOL)
Referee Assessor: Oscar Maldonado (BOL)

Palmeiras – Delfin
Referee: Dario Herrera (ARG)
Assistant Referee 1: Juan Belatti (ARG)
Assistant Referee 2: Cristian Navarro (ARG)
Fourth Official: Angel Arteaga (VEN)
VAR: Leodan Gonzalez (URU)
AVAR: Angelo Hermosilla (CHI)
VAR Observer: Ana Oliveira (BRA)
Referee Assessor: Regildenia Moura (BRA)

Nacional – Independiente Del Valle
Referee: Juan Benitez (PAR)
Assistant Referee 1: Rodney Aquino (PAR)
Assistant Referee 2: Roberto Cañete (PAR)
Fourth Official: Joel Alarcon (PER)
VAR: Derlis Lopez (PAR)
AVAR: Jose Mendez (PAR)
VAR Observer: Dario Ubriaco (URU)
Referee Assessor: Mauricio Espinosa (URU)

Boca Juniors – Internacional
Referee: Esteban Ostojich (URU)
Assistant Referee 1: Richard Trinidad (URU)
Assistant Referee 2: Carlos Barreiro (URU)
Fourth Official: Christian Ferreyra (URU)
VAR: Nicolas Gallo (COL)
AVAR: Gery Vargas (BOL)
VAR Observer: Hernan Maidana (ARG)
Referee Assessor: Ubaldo Aquino (PAR)

Gremio – Guarani
Referee: Wilmar Roldan (COL)
Assistant Referee 1: Dionisio Ruiz (COL)
Assistant Referee 2: Miguel Roldan (COL)
Fourth Official: Jose Argote (VEN)
VAR: Andres Rojas (COL)
AVAR: John Leon (COL)
VAR Observer: Emerson De Carvalho (BRA)
Referee Assessor: Paulo Conceicao (BRA)

CONMEBOL Sudamericana 2020 – Round of 16 (Second Leg)

1-3 December 2020

Lanus – Bolivar 
Referee: Cristian Garay (CHI, photo) 
Assistant Referee 1: Claudio Rios (CHI) 
Assistant Referee 2: Jose Retamal (CHI) 
Fourth Official: Juan Soto (VEN) 
VAR: Piero Maza (CHI) 
AVAR: Eduardo Gamboa (CHI) 
VAR Observer: Angel Sanchez (ARG) 
Referee Assessor: Ricardo Casas (ARG) 

Union – Bahia
Referee: John Ospina (COL)
Assistant Referee 1: Sebastian Vela (COL)
Assistant Referee 2: Wilmar Navarro (COL)
Fourth Official: Luis Yrusta (BOL)
VAR: Carlos Betancur (COL)
AVAR: Alexander Guzman (COL)
VAR Observer: Sergio Viola (ARG)
Referee Assessor: Gustavo Rossi (ARG)

Deportivo Cali – Velez Sarsfield 
Referee: Eber Aquino (PAR) 
Assistant Referee 1: Milciades Saldivar (PAR) 
Assistant Referee 2: Eduardo Cardozo (PAR) 
Fourth Official: Luis Quiroz (ECU) 
VAR: Diego Haro (PER) 
AVAR: Michael Espinoza (PER) 
VAR Observer: Wilson Lamouroux (COL) 
Referee Assessor: Jose Buitrago (COL) 

Independiente – Fenix
Referee: Wilton Sampaio (BRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Fabricio Vilarinho (BRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Guilherme Camilo (BRA)
Fourth Official: Roberto Sanchez (ECU)
VAR: Rafael Traci (BRA)
AVAR: Danilo Manis (BRA)
VAR Observer: Sabrina Lois (ARG)
Referee Assessor: Hector Baldassi (ARG)

Sport Huancayo – Coquimbo Unido
Referee: Augusto Aragon (ECU)
Assistant Referee 1: Byron Romero (ECU)
Assistant Referee 2: Ricardo Baren (ECU)
Fourth Official: Franklin Congo (ECU)
VAR: Carlos Orbe (ECU)
AVAR: Christian Lescano (ECU)
VAR Observer: Henry Gambetta (PER)
Referee Assessor: Freddy Arellanos (PER)

Union La Calera – Junior
Referee: Bruno Arleu (BRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Bruno Boschilia (BRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Bruno Pires (BRA)
Fourth Official: Wagner Magalhaes (BRA)
VAR: Rodolpho Toski (BRA)
AVAR: Flavio Souza (BRA)
VAR Observer: Patricio Polic (CHI)
Referee Assessor: Francisco Mondria (CHI)

Universidad Catolica – River Plate
Referee: Alexis Herrera (VEN)
Assistant Referee 1: Tulio Moreno (VEN)
Assistant Referee 2: Carlos Lopez (VEN)
Fourth Official: Miguel Santivanez (PER)
VAR: Victor Carrillo (PER)
AVAR: Kevin Ortega (PER)
VAR Observer: Jorge Osorio (CHI)
Referee Assessor: Barbra Bastias (CHI)

Vasco da Gama – Defensa y Justicia
Referee: Andres Cunha (URU)
Assistant Referee 1: Nicolas Taran (URU)
Assistant Referee 2: Martin Soppi (URU)
Fourth Official: Juan Garcia (BOL)
VAR: Daniel Fedorczuk (URU)
AVAR: Ivo Mendez (BOL)
VAR Observer: Claudio Freitas (BRA)
Referee Assessor: Nilson Moncao (BRA)

UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Qualifying Round (Matchday 16)

1 December 2020 

Czech Republic – Moldova 
Referee: Florence Guillemin (FRA, photo) 
Assistant Referee 1: Elodie Coppola (FRA) 
Assistant Referee 2: Solenne Bartnik (FRA) 
Fourth Official: Alexandra Collin (FRA) 

Slovakia – Sweden
Referee: Karoline Wacker (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Sina Diekmann (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Vanessa Arlt (GER)
Fourth Official: Fabienne Michel (GER)

Georgia – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Referee: Elvira Nurmustafina (KAZ)
Assistant Referee 1: Elena Alistratova (KAZ)
Assistant Referee 2: Nargis Magau (KAZ)
Fourth Official: Justina Lavrenovaite (LTU)

Turkey – Russia
Referee: Sandra Bastos (POR)
Assistant Referee 1: Olga Almeida (POR)
Assistant Referee 2: Sandrine Santos (POR)
Fourth Official: Diana Henriques (POR)

Hungary – Iceland
Referee: Iuliana Demetrescu (ROU)
Assistant Referee 1: Mihaela Tepusa (ROU)
Assistant Referee 2: Daniela Constantinescu (ROU)
Fourth Official: Cristina Trandafir (ROU)

Croatia – Romania
Referee: Petra Pavlikova (SVK)
Assistant Referee 1: Maria Sukenikova (SVK)
Assistant Referee 2: Miroslava Pastoreková (SVK)
Fourth Official: Zuzana Valentová (SVK)

Denmark – Italy
Referee: Riem Hussein (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Christina Biehl (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Melissa Joos (GER)
Fourth Official: Franziska Wildfeuer (GER)

Slovenia – Estonia
Referee: Maria Marotta (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Francesca Di Monte (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Giulia Tempestilli (ITA)
Fourth Official: Maria Sole Caputi (ITA)

Israel – Malta
Referee: Ivana Projkovska (MKD)
Assistant Referee 1: Biljana Milanova (MKD)
Assistant Referee 2: Elena Soklevska-Ilievski (MKD)
Fourth Official: Irena Velevačkoska (MKD)

Ireland – Germany
Referee: Sara Persson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Josefin Aronsson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Jilan Taher (SWE)
Fourth Official: Lovisa Johansson (SWE)

Ukraine – Montenegro
Referee: Frida Nielsen (DEN)
Assistant Referee 1: Karolin Kaivoja (EST)
Assistant Referee 2: Sidsel Rasmussen (DEN)
Fourth Official: Frederikke Sokjaer (DEN)

Netherlands – Kosovo
Referee: Barbara Poxhofer (AUT)
Assistant Referee 1: Sara Telek (AUT)
Assistant Referee 2: Biljana Iskin (AUT)
Fourth Official: Maria Ennsgraber (AUT)

Austria – Serbia
Referee: Tess Olofsson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Almira Spahić (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Camilla Stendahl (SWE)
Fourth Official: Pernilla Larsson (SWE)

Portugal – Albania
Referee: Olga Zadinova (CZE)
Assistant Referee 1: Lucie Ratajova (CZE)
Assistant Referee 2: Nikol Šafranková (CZE)
Fourth Official: Jana Adamkova (CZE)

Northern Ireland – Faroe Islands
Referee: Hristiyana Guteva (BUL)
Assistant Referee 1: Ekaterina Marinova (BUL)
Assistant Referee 2: Pavleta Rashkova (BUL)
Fourth Official: Dimitrina Milkova (BUL)

Belgium – Switzerland
Referee: Anastasia Pustovoitova (RUS)
Assistant Referee 1: Ekaterina Kurochkina (RUS)
Assistant Referee 2: Iuliia Petrova (RUS)
Fourth Official: Vera Opeykina (RUS)

Wales – Slovenia
Referee: Desiree Grundbacher (SUI)
Assistant Referee 1: Linda Schmid (SUI)
Assistant Referee 2: Belinda Brem (SUI)
Fourth Official: Laura Mauricio (SUI)

Scotland – Finland
Referee: Katalin Kulcsar (HUN)
Assistant Referee 1: Paulina Baranowska (POL)
Assistant Referee 2: Katalin Török (HUN)
Fourth Official: Eszter Urban (HUN)

Spain – Poland
Referee: Cheryl Foster (WAL)
Assistant Referee 1: Ceri Williams (WAL)
Assistant Referee 2: Victoria Finlay (NIR)
Fourth Official: Louise Thompson (NIR)

France – Kazakhstan
Referee: Lorraine Watson (SCO)
Assistant Referee 1: Kylie Cockburn (SCO)
Assistant Referee 2: Vikki Allan (SCO)
Fourth Official: Vikki Robertson (SCO)

AFC Champions League 2020 – Group Stage (East Region, Matchday 4)

27-28 November 2020 

Vissel Kobe – Guangzhou Evergrande 
Referee: Alireza Faghani (IRN, photo) 
Assistant Referee 1: Mohammadreza Mansouri (IRN)
Assistant Referee 2: Mohammadreza Abolfazli (IRN) 
Fourth Official: Mooud Bonyadifard (IRN) 

Melbourne Victory – Beijing FC
Referee: Mohd Yaacob (MAS)
Assistant Referee 1: Yusri Mohamad (MAS)
Assistant Referee 2: Ronnie Koh (SIN)
Fourth Official: Nazmi Nasaruddin (MAS)

Chiangrai United – FC Seoul
Referee: Ali Shaban (KUW)
Assistant Referee 1: Mohammed Al Abakry (KSA)
Assistant Referee 2: Khalaf Al Shammari (KSA)
Fourth Official: Turki Al Khudayr (KSA)

Shanghai Shenhua – FC Tokyo
Referee: Mohanad Sarray (IRQ)
Assistant Referee 1: Ali Hayder (IRQ)
Assistant Referee 2: Ali Ahmad (SYR)
Fourth Official: Ali Al Qaysi (IRQ)

Ulsan FC – Perth Glory
Referee: Sivakorn Pu-Udom (THA)
Assistant Referee 1: Rawut Nakrit (THA)
Assistant Referee 2: Rashid Al Ghaithi (OMA)
Fourth Official: Ilgiz Tantashev (UZB) 

Yokohama Marinos – Shanghai SIPG
Referee: Mohammed Abdulla (UAE)
Assistant Referee 1: Mohamed Al-Hammadi (UAE)
Assistant Referee 2: Hasan Al-Mahri (UAE)
Fourth Official: Ammar Al-Jneibi (UAE)

Clattenburg mocked Pepe in UCL final

Former referee Mark Clattenburg admitted that he stuck his tongue out at the then Real Madrid player after a series of events during the game. The 2016 Champions League final referee spoke about one of the most talked about incidents from that day to 'From the Horse's Mouth' on 'Paddy Power'. Towards the end of the game, Clattenburg stuck his tongue out and many interpreted it as him mocking Pepe, who stayed on the floor after a clash with Carrasco. The referee played down the gesture: "I remember that the game ended and everyone was talking about my tongue and not my refereeing. That was good. That was simply a reaction because my mouth was completely dry and it was a very hot day." That said, he admitted it could be misinterpreted: "I think it fitted in perfectly with what was happening, with Pepe on the floor. I thought: 'God, what a soft guy rolling on the floor like that'. What I did was probably what everyone at home was thinking about the player." Although he had a good match on the whole, the final is remember for a mistake by his assistant referee who saw Ramos' goal stand despite him being offside. (Source: BeSoccer

Clattenburg was in charge of some of the biggest games of the Premier League era and now has lifted the lid on his highest profile spats. 
- Did any managers, teams or players hold a grudge against you in the end? 
- Jose Mourinho did, in the end. He was hard work when he came back from Real Madrid, and well, I got him the sack at Chelsea. Well, he blames me for getting him the sack at Chelsea – but I would say it was more all of the results before that, too. When he went to Manchester United, he was thinking the same thing – I’m going to get him the sack, so he was always anti-me. 
- What was Roy Keane like to deal with on the field? 
- He used to shout and scream at you and sometimes you’d be like, woah, what’s going on there. Especially when I was a young referee, I was probably a little bit intimidated, but then the more I got to know him, you see a different side of him especially when he’s working as a pundit. When he was on the pitch, oh my god, he was a player that you would never, ever trust because he would put a tackle in and as a referee, if you missed it, you were the one that got the blame - not Roy Keane for actually making the tackle.” 
- It feels like you got quite a lot of grief as a referee, did you ever think about packing it in? 
- No. I left my job in 2004 – it was an election, and I left my job to become a referee. After a few years, you’re thinking, I can’t go back. So, you end up having to stick with it because there is no other industry. Once you’ve been out of your industry too long, you’re not going to go back. In refereeing, you can’t normally go to another country because it just didn’t happen at that time, so you end up doing it to pay the mortgage. 
- Who’s the biggest diver in football? 
- I had a big problem, and it would me up once, with James McClean. He was playing for Wigan against QPR in a play-off. Obviously a play-off is a huge game and they were winning 1-0. He went to go around Rob Green and I had a great position and I’ve seen him dive. As he went over, he’s looking for the penalty appeal for the penalty and I gave him the yellow card for diving. He just turned around and said, ‘So what? I’m a winger. It’s only a yellow card. But he said, if you give me a second yellow, you would have been killed. He was right. If I’d given the penalty, I would have been crucified and he only got a yellow card and that used to wind me up as a ref because you think, hold on, there should be more punishment for diving because it’s the worst thing in football.” 
- Do referees have a Christmas party? 
- Every year we used to have one, but it was so boring. They weren’t guys I would have a drink with. I made my bunch of mates up in the North, and then I had the referees, but they wanted any bit of money, but they were tight as anything! They wouldn’t even go to the bar to buy a beer. You would end up going to the bar and then you would turn around and there was 10 of them behind them waiting for a pint. (Source: Sunday World)

CAF Champions League Final 2020: Ghorbal (ALG)

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that Algerian Mustapha Ghorbal will be officiating the African Champions League final between Ahly and Zamalek that will take place at Cairo stadium on Friday. The 35-year-old witnessed Zamalek’s qualification for the Champions League semifinals at the expense of Tunisian giants Esperance, as he was the referee in the second leg between the two sides in the quarterfinals in Tunisia last February. During the game he awarded an early penalty for hosts Esperance, who won the game 1-0, but the result was not sufficient for them to advance into the semifinals, as Zamalek went through with a 3-2 win on aggregate. Ghorbal, who started his international career in 2014, was present in the continent's major competitions as well as the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019. He has officiated 158 games since starting his refereeing career in the first division in 2011. Ahly are competing for their ninth Champions League trophy, while Zamalek are eyeing their sixth title, their first since 2002. (Source: Ahram)

27 November 2020 
Zamalek – Al Ahly 
Referee: Mustapha Ghorbal (ALG) 
Assistant Referee 1: Abdelhak Etchiali (ALG) 
Assistant Referee 2: Mokrane Gourari (ALG) 
Fourth Official: Ibrahim El Din (EGY) 
VAR: Janny Sikazwe (ZAM)
AVAR 1: Zakhele Siwela (RSA)
AVAR 2: Jerson Dos Santos (ANG)
Referee Observer: Lim Kee Chong (MRI)

Match suspended by a police officer who arrested the referee

In the afternoon of 15 July 1979, Pedro Castellino and his assistant referees, Oscar Lopez and Carlos Luna, refereed the match between Lujan Sport Club and Independiente Rivadavia corresponding to the official tournament of the Mendoza Soccer League (Argentina). The game was going through normal circumstances until, in the second half, the referee Castellino awarded an indirect free kick for Lujan, instead of the penalty kick demanded by the locals. The protests turned into insults and the referee sent off two players and their coach. Police entered the field to calm down the players, when the Sub-Inspector Officer Salinas exchanged a few words with Castellino and both went to the locker room. In less than 5 minutes, the police officer reported that "The Code of Offenses of the province of Mendoza, articles 24 and 55, was applied to Castellino and, therefore, the match has been suspended and the referee is detained." The astonishment was general and the public, which filled the Lujan stadion (about 4,000 people), left in order without causing any excesses, after hearing the announcement of the match suspension, from the stadium speakers.
Pedro Castellino was attributed the infraction of article 94 of the Code of Offences, which said: “The judges and referees, who, due to negligent performance, provoke by their attitude incidents between players or the public, which due to their magnitude made the suspension necessary of the sporting event, will be punished with arrests of up to 10 days and a fine of 100 pesos”. After they held him in the deputy commissioner's office for two hours following his arrest, the referee was taken to another police station to take his fingerprints. At 9:15 pm, Castellino, along with his lawyer and all the people who supported him, were able to leave the police station where he had been detained for more than 3 hours. The lawyer of the referee announced "once the police action is finished, he will settle the matter before the Judge of Peace in the Palace of Justice, ensuring that there will be evidence that will prove my client right."
The incident of this arrest remained as a historical fact in local and national football. Castellino, 31 years old at the time, continued to referee important matches, was a prosperous merchant, and became a beloved teacher. He was president of the Referees Committee of the Mendocina League and the Sanjuanina League, was appointed National Instructor by the AFA, served as a professor at the School of Sports Journalism and for many years he was also a radio journalist on several stations with his program El Tribunal of the referees. On 21 September 2020, at the age of 71, he left this life full of memories, anecdotes and that striking fact of his arrest on a football field. 

Source: El Sol

UEFA Futsal Champions League 2020/2021 – Preliminary Round

24-29 November 2020

ACCS – Crvena Zvezda
Referee 1: Ruben Cardoso (POR, photo)
Referee 2: Filipe Duarte (POR)
Third Referee: Cedric Pelissier (FRA)
Timekeeper: Jordan Feltesse (FRA)

Vytis – Hammarby
Referee 1: David Schaerli (SUI)
Referee 2: Adrian Tschopp (SUI)
Third Referee: Šarūnas Tamulynas (LTU)
Timekeeper: Žilvinas Galimovas (LTU)

Record Bielsko Biala – Swansea University
Referee 1: Grigori Ošomkov (EST)
Referee 2: Jagnar Jakobson (EST)
Third Referee: Dominik Cipinski (POL)
Timekeeper: Damian Grabowski (POL)

Pristina – Tirana
Referee 1: Ingus Purins (LVA)
Referee 2: Eduards Fatkulins (LVA)
Third Referee: Besar Beqiri (KOS)
Timekeeper: Hajrush Shkodra (KOS)

Omonia – Fiorentina 
Referee 1: Omar Rafiq (NOR)
Referee 2: Telmen Undrakh (NOR)
Third Referee: Yiangos Yiangou (CYP)
Timekeeper: Georgios Kozakos (CYP)

Charleroi – Lynx
Referee 1: Norbert Szilagyi (HUN)
Referee 2: Dario Pezzuto (ITA)
Third Referee: Yasin Alageyik (BEL)
Timekeeper: Thomas Zambuto (BEL)

Petro – Lucenec
Referee 1: Jacob Pawlowski (GER)
Referee 2: Christian Gundler (GER)
Third Referee: Sergejs Šacmans (LVA)
Timekeeper: Kiazo Leladze (LVA)

Kherson – Rosario
Referee 1: Lars Van Leeuwen (NED)
Referee 2: Jacob Van Dijke (NED)
Third Referee: Yevhen Hordiienko (UKR)
Timekeeper: Hennadiy Hora (UKR)

Tbilisi State – Berettyoujfalu
Referee 1: Chiara Perona (ITA)
Referee 2: Shota Kukhilava (GEO)
Third Referee: Zviad Bliadze (GEO)
Timekeeper: Grigol Bliadze (GEO)

AEK – Araz
Referee 1: Carl Hughes (WAL)
Referee 2: Valentin Ciuplea (WAL)
Third Referee: Konstantinos Farmakis (GRE)
Timekeeper: Nikolaos Pachakis (GRE)

Viten Orsha – Cherno More
Referee 1: David Nissen (DEN)
Referee 2: Martin Koster (DEN)
Third Referee: Maksim Dzeikala (BLR)
Timekeeper: Dmitriy Genisev (BLR)

Allstars – Luxol St. Andrews
Referee 1: Rafat Al Hamola (ISR)
Referee 2: Idan Berenshtein (ISR)
Third Referee: Daniel Stauber (AUT)
Timekeeper: Manuel Wolf (AUT)

Utleira – Hovocubo
Referee 1: Sviatoslav Kliuchnyk (UKR)
Referee 2: Denys Kutsyi (UKR)
Third Referee: Tore Hoffstrom (NOR)
Timekeeper: Mats Hansen (NOR)

Hohenstein Ernstthal – Piyalepasa
Referee 1: David Urdanoz Apezteguia (ESP)
Referee 2: Javier Moreno Reina (ESP)
Third Referee: Maximilian Alkofer (GER)
Timekeeper: Jens Rohland (GER)

Encamp – Salines
Referee 1: Vitali Rakutski (BLR)
Referee 2: Volha Pauliuts (BLR)
Third Referee: Gerard Ramirez (AND)
Timekeeper: Francisco Osuna (AND)

Titograd – Pesaro
Referee 1: Bogdan Hanceariuc (ROU)
Referee 2: Liviu Chita (ROU)
Third Referee: Vladimir Sakovic (MNE)
Timekeeper: Drazen Vukcevic (MNE)

Chrudim – Akaa
Referee 1: Murat Colak (TUR)
Referee 2: Fatma Tursun (TUR)
Third Referee: Filip Nesnera (CZE)

MNK Olmissum – Viimsi
Referee 1: Martin Matula (SVK)
Referee 2: Peter Budac (SVK)
Third Referee: Vedran Babic (CRO)
Timekeeper: Mario Budimir (CRO)

United Galati – Dolphins Ashdod
Referee 1: Irina Velikanova (RUS)
Referee 2: Tatiana Boltneva (RUS)
Third Referee: Daniel Deca (ROU)
Timekeeper: Cezar Ionescu (ROU)

Differdange – London Helvecia
Referee 1: Kaloyan Kirilov (BUL)
Referee 2: Ivo Tsenov (BUL)
Third Referee: Michael Lima (LUX)
Timekeeper: Edgar Oliveira (LUX)

Shkupi – Blue Magic Dublin
Referee 1: Julien Lang (FRA)
Referee 2: Aurelien Uzan (FRA)
Third Referee: Josip Barton (MKD)
Timekeeper: Done Ristovski (MKD)

Referee who missed “Hand of God” goal hails late “genius” Maradona

Former Tunisian referee Ali Bennaceur, who officiated the 1986 World Cup quarter-final in which Diego Maradona scored his famous double against England, hailed the Argentinian as a "genius" following his death, aged 60, on Wednesday, 25 November 2020. 
Bennaceur admitted that he doubted the validity of Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' goal, but said the football legend's second strike in the game was a "masterpiece". In the 51st minute of a politically-charged, last-eight clash in Mexico, four years after the Falklands War, Maradona outjumped England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punched the ball into the net to give his country the lead. "I didn't see the hand, but I had a doubt," Bennaceur, the first Tunisian to referee a World Cup quarter-final, told AFP. "You can see the pictures - I stepped back to take the advice of my assistant, Bulgarian (Bogdan) Dochev, and when he said it was good, I gave the goal." The 76-year-old said he believed he was a go-to man for FIFA in tough matches, and that world football's governing body gave him a high rating for his performance in the game. "I had already refereed a match between the USSR and China in 1985, I was the man of difficult missions for FIFA," Bennaceur added. "FIFA gave me a 9.4 on this game, I did what I had to do, but there was confusion - Dochev later indicated that he had seen two arms, and he didn't know if it was Shilton's or Maradona's." 
Argentina secured their place in the semi-finals of a tournament they would go on to win when Maradona put them two goals ahead with a strike later voted the 'Goal of the Century'. The then-Napoli star evaded six England players' attempts to either tackle or foul him during a mesmerising run from the halfway line, before prodding into an empty net. "I was ready to whistle for a dangerous foul on Maradona," remembered Bennaceur of a goal which proved to be the winner after Gary Lineker pulled one back for England. "I thought after 50 yards of effort, they were going to bring him down. I was proud to participate in that masterpiece." 
Maradona visited Bennaceur 29 years later while shooting an advertisement in Tunisia, giving him a T-shirt bearing the words, "To my eternal friend Ali". "We had a good time, I told him that that day, it was not Argentina who won, but him, Maradona. He was a genius, a football legend. As a referee, I did not allow myself to close my eyes even for a second when following him, because he was capable of anything." 

UEFA Europa League 2020/2021 – Group Stage (Matchday 4)

26 November 2020 

AEK Athens – Zorya Luhansk
Referee: Aliyar Aghayev (AZE, photo)
Assistant Referee 1: Zeynal Zeynalov (AZE)
Assistant Referee 2: Akif Amirali (AZE)
Fourth Official: Orkhan Mammadov (AZE)
Referee Observer: Luc Wouters (BEL)

CSKA Sofia – Young Boys
Referee: Fabio Verissimo (POR)
Assistant Referee 1: Rui Teixeira (POR)
Assistant Referee 2: Pedro Ribeiro (POR)
Fourth Official: Antonio Nobre (POR)
Referee Observer: Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)

Molde – Arsenal
Referee: Irfan Peljto (BIH)
Assistant Referee 1: Senad Ibrisimbegović (BIH)
Assistant Referee 2: Davor Beljo (BIH)
Fourth Official: Admir Šehović (BIH)
Referee Observer: Haim Jakov (ISR)

SC Braga – Leicester City
Referee: Daniele Orsato (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Alessandro Giallatini (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Fabiano Preti (ITA)
Fourth Official: Daniele Doveri (ITA)
Referee Observer: Nikolai Ivanov (RUS)

Sparta Praha – Celtic FC
Referee: Tobias Stieler (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Mike Pickel (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Dominik Schaal (GER)
Fourth Official: Florian Badstübner (GER)
Referee Observer: Vadims Direktorenko (LVA)

LOSC Lille – AC Milan
Referee: Craig Pawson (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Ian Hussin (ENG)
Assistant Referee 2: Harry Lennard (ENG)
Fourth Official: Darren England (ENG)
Referee Observer: Bernardino Gonzalez Vazquez (ESP)

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Villarreal CF
Referee: Tiago Martins (POR)
Assistant Referee 1: Pedro Almeida (POR)
Assistant Referee 2: Hugo Ribeiro (POR)
Fourth Official: Helder Malheiro (POR)
Referee Observer: Stephane Lannoy (FRA)

Qarabag – Sivasspor
Referee: Jakob Kehlet (DEN)
Assistant Referee 1: Heine Sorensen (DEN)
Assistant Referee 2: Lars Hummelgaard (DEN)
Fourth Official: Jens Maae (DEN)
Referee Observer: Aleh Chykun (BLR)

LASK – Royal Antwerp
Referee: Donatas Rumšas (LTU)
Assistant Referee 1: Aleksandr Radius (LTU)
Assistant Referee 2: Dovydas Sužiedėlis (LTU)
Fourth Official: Manfredas Lukjancukas (LTU)
Referee Observer: Draženko Kovačić (CRO)

Wolfsberger AC – GNK Dinamo
Referee: Serhiy Boiko (UKR)
Assistant Referee 1: Semen Shlonchak (UKR)
Assistant Referee 2: Viktor Matyash (UKR)
Fourth Official: Denys Shurman (UKR)
Referee Observer: Marco Borg (MLT)

CSKA Moskva – Feyenoord
Referee: Kristo Tohver (EST)
Assistant Referee 1: Silver Koiv (EST)
Assistant Referee 2: Sten Klaasen (EST)
Fourth Official: Juri Frischer (EST)
Referee Observer: Erol Ersoy (TUR)

Slovan Liberec – TSG Hoffenheim
Referee: Jérôme Brisard (FRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Benjamin Pages (FRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Guillaume Debart (FRA)
Fourth Official: Amaury Delerue (FRA)
Referee Observer: Stefano Podeschi (SMR)

KAA Gent – Crvena Zvezda
Referee: Filip Glova (SVK)
Assistant Referee 1: Peter Bednar (SVK)
Assistant Referee 2: František Ferenc (SVK)
Fourth Official: Michal Ocenaš (SVK)
Referee Observer: Sascha Amhof (SUI)

CFR Cluj – AS Roma
Referee: Harald Lechner (AUT)
Assistant Referee 1: Andreas Heidenreich (AUT)
Assistant Referee 2: Maximilian Kolbitsch (AUT)
Fourth Official: Julian Weinberger (AUT)
Referee Observer: Ferenc Szekely (HUN)

Dundalk FC – Rapid Wien
Referee: Tamas Bognar (HUN)
Assistant Referee 1: Balazs Buzas (HUN)
Assistant Referee 2: Balazs Szert (HUN)
Fourth Official: Gergo Bogar (HUN)
Referee Observer: Jon Skjervold (NOR)

Bayer Leverkusen – Hapoel Beer Sheva
Referee: Pawel Gil (POL)
Assistant Referee 1: Konrad Sapela (POL)
Assistant Referee 2: Marcin Borkowski (POL)
Fourth Official: Piotr Lasyk (POL)
Referee Observer: Kenneth Clark (SCO)

OGC Nice – Slavia Praha
Referee: Glenn Nyberg (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Mikael Hallin (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Andreas Söderqvist (SWE)
Fourth Official: Mohammed Al-Hakim (SWE)
Referee Observer: Ray Ellingham (WAL)

Standard de Liege – Lech Poznan
Referee: Petr Ardeleanu (CZE)
Assistant Referee 1: Jiří Molaček (CZE)
Assistant Referee 2: Petr Caletka (CZE)
Fourth Official: Karel Hrubes (CZE)
Referee Observer: Andreas Schluchter (SUI)

Rangers FC – SL Benfica
Referee: Radu Petrescu (ROU)
Assistant Referee 1: Radu Ghinguleac (ROU)
Assistant Referee 2: Mircea Grigoriu (ROU)
Fourth Official: Marcel Birsan (ROU)
Referee Observer: Peter Sippel (GER)

PSV Eindhoven – PAOK FC
Referee: Andris Treimanis (LVA)
Assistant Referee 1: Haralds Gudermanis (LVA)
Assistant Referee 2: Aleksejs Spasjonnikovs (LVA)
Fourth Official: Aleksandrs Golubevs (LVA)
Referee Observer: Volodymyr Petrov (UKR)

Granada CF – Omonia FC
Referee: Stephanie Frappart (FRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Hicham Zakrani (FRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Mikael Berchebru (FRA)
Fourth Official: Johan Hamel (FRA)
Referee Observer: Martin Hansson (SWE)

AZ Alkmaar – Real Sociedad de Futbol
Referee: Aleksandar Stavrev (MKD)
Assistant Referee 1: Dejan Kostadinov (MKD)
Assistant Referee 2: Goce Petreski (MKD)
Fourth Official: Konstantin Vlaho (MKD)
Referee Observer: Vlado Svilokos (CRO)

SSC Napoli – HNK Rijeka
Referee: Halis Özkahya (TUR)
Assistant Referee 1: Kemal Yilmaz (TUR)
Assistant Referee 2: Çem Satman (TUR)
Fourth Official: Alper Ulusoy (TUR)
Referee Observer: Iain Robertson (SCO)

Tottenham Hotspur – PFC Ludogorets
Referee: Giorgi Kruashvili (GEO)
Assistant Referee 1: Levan Varamishvili (GEO)
Assistant Referee 2: Zaza Pipia (GEO)
Fourth Official: Georgi Vadachkoria (GEO)
Referee Observer: Fredy Fautrel (FRA)

Vautrot: "Maradona was very easy to referee"

French referee Michel Vautrot, 75, has crossed paths with Diego Maradona several times on many stadiums around the world. So, of course, the disappearance of “Pibe de Oro” at the age of 60 brings memories to the surface. “We always only say good things about people who die but, really, and I'm not trying to brighten things up, it was very easy to referee him. He never used his name or his status as a living legend with the public to try to unsettle me. I can look around but he never came to shake me or yell at me." 
Searching his memory, Michel Vautrot obviously goes back to the Italian World Cup in 1990, during which he refereed Argentina twice. First in the opening game, which the Albiceleste lost 1-0 to Roger Milla’s Cameroon. “The defeated defending champion was the sensation. But he didn't say a word, he was exemplary", recalls Vautrot, who had just been named twice the best referee in the world (1988 and 1989). The two met again for a historic semi-final between Italy and Argentina in the legendary San Paolo stadium, the scene of Maradona's exploits in the Napoli jersey. “He was the idol of Naples, the God of the Neapolitans. The Italian players were nervous because the home crowd cheered on Maradona. But then again, he never used it". A match won on penalties by Argentina (1-1, 4-3) and remembered because Michel Vautrot had "forgotten" to whistle the half-time of extra time. 
Maradona and Vautrot had crossed paths much earlier on the green field. In 1984, for a European Cup quarter-final between Barça and Manchester United, or, in 1989, for another quarter-final, of the UEFA Cup this time between Napoli and Bayern. “He was substituted in the 81st minute. Then I saw him come back onto the pitch and come over to shake my hand before stepping out. This gesture struck me, "says Michel Vautrot. The French referee, who also officiated at Michel Platini's jubilee in Nancy in May 1988, has also not forgotten his trip to Argentina two years ago. “There he was a living legend. It’s crazy. How could a soccer player have such status? He was a living God". 

AFC Champions League 2020 – Group Stage (East Region, Matchday 3)

24-25 November 2020 

FC Tokyo – Shanghai Shenhua
Referee: Adham Makhadmeh (JOR, photo)
Assistant Referee 1: Ahmed Al Roalle (JOR)
Assistant Referee 2: Mohammad Al Kalaf (JOR)
Fourth Official: Hussein Yehia (LIB)

Beijing FC – Melbourne Victory
Referee: Saoud Al-Adba (QAT)
Assistant Referee 1: Ramzan Al-Naemi (QAT)
Assistant Referee 2: Saoud Al-Maqaleh (QAT)
Fourth Official: Khamis Al-Marri (QAT)

FC Seoul – Chiangrai United
Referee: Mooud Bonyadifard (IRN)
Assistant Referee 1: Mohammadreza Mansouri (IRN)
Assistant Referee 2: Mohammadreza Abolfazli (IRN)
Fourth Official: Hettikamkanamge Perera (SRI)

Perth Glory – Ulsan FC
Referee: Nazmi Nasaruddin (MAS)
Assistant Referee 1: Yusri Mohamad (MAS)
Assistant Referee 2: Ronnie Koh (SIN)
Fourth Official: Mohd Yaacob (MAS)

Guangzhou Evergrande – Vissel Kobe
Referee: Nawaf Shukralla (BHR)
Assistant Referee 1: Mohamed Salman (BHR)
Assistant Referee 2: Abdulla Al Rowaimi (BHR)
Fourth Official: Hanna Hattab (SYR)

Shanghai SIPG – Yokohama Marinos
Referee: Ali Al Qaysi (IRQ)
Assistant Referee 1: Hayder Ali (IRQ)
Assistant Referee 2: Rashid Al Ghaithi (IRQ)
Fourth Official: Mohanad Sarray (IRQ)

Jeonbuk Motors – Sydney FC
Referee: Hettikamkanamge Perera (SRI)
Assistant Referee 1: Yousef Al Shamari (QAT)
Assistant Referee 2: Zahy Al Shammari (QAT)
Fourth Official: Sivakorn Pu-Udom (THA)

Reaching the refereeing summit: What does it take?

‘Man in the Middle’, a new four-part UEFA.tv series currently being released in weekly episodes, gives a unique insight into the personal and professional lives of 16 top referees over an 18-month period from February 2019 to August 2020 – highlighting in particular what it takes to be a match official in the UEFA Champions League. Episode two, released on Monday, takes an in-depth look into the psychology of refereeing - why referees take up the role, and how they have to learn to deal with the various pressures and demands of the job. 
Roberto Rosetti: "Football was my life, and at the beginning, refereeing was just an experience, and then it became more and more of a thing that I really enjoyed. I think that for a 16-year-old boy, going onto the field of play and making decisions, alone, in the middle of a football match, with 22 players, parents, spectators, is a good school of life for making decisions. When you are on the field of play, you are totally focused on what’s going on… so the only point is really to make the correct decisions. You don’t care about pressure, you don’t care about all of what is around football, and you are professional. You have no time to think, you just have to be in the perfect position, and to see, and then to make decisions…only this. We have to be ourselves. We cannot change. Of course, we have to improve, we have to work every day. When I was a referee, I was very, very motivated. I was really hungry. I wanted to get my targets. When you are totally focused on what you are doing, and you try to do your best, people around you immediately can understand and can respect you for what you are on the field of play." 
Ovidiu Hațegan: "On the other side of my street, we had a pitch, so I was lucky because every day when I went out of the house, I would see the pitch. I was in love, immediately. When I was 14 or 15, a colleague - his father was a referee back then, and he insisted: 'Come on, let’s do the course.' I said: 'Why? I don’t want to be a referee; I don’t like being a referee.' He convinced me, and I did the course; it lasted almost five months. The first moment that I held a whistle in my hand, and I blew the whistle, I really liked it, so I said: 'Wow! It’s really nice, it’s a different way of seeing football', but I loved it." Hațegan learnt of his mother's death at half-time during a match he was refereeing: "It was for sure the most difficult moment in my life, even though I knew that it would happen. When I left for that match, everyone, the doctor said: 'No, no, don’t worry, you can go because things are stable, and in two days you will be back, so no problems.' Everything was OK, but at half-time, I got the calls. When I saw the two missed calls, I knew that something bad had happened. I had a discussion with Roberto in the dressing room. I was crying. It was a really difficult moment… and then I thought about it, I thought about all the good moments, and I decided to also whistle the second half for her, because she was very, very proud of me, so it was a rollercoaster of emotions during the second half, I have to be honest… and at the end, as you have probably seen with the captain of the Netherlands, he realised that I was crying. Around me, everybody was just: 'Well done ref, congratulations'. Then he came, he hugged me, he asked me, and we talked a little bit, and immediately I wanted to get off the pitch to go to my dressing room. If I’m thinking now, I don’t think I would do it again but, in that moment, I was thinking only about her, and she probably gave me the strength to continue. You have to be strong in life in order to move on and to fight for your future, and you have to think about the past with love and appreciate what you have in the present. I love refereeing. For me, every match is the same, it’s fascinating and gives me a lot of positive emotions." 
Gianluca Rocchi: "I became a referee because my passion for football was at a very, very high level. Without passion, it’s impossible to do anything. I think that every time you are on the field of play, you are exactly the same man as you are off the field of play. You can’t change anything. If every decision, you are ready to make the decision, then you are free. ‘Free’ is a very important word. It means whistling what you see, not whistling what you see and thinking about it. So, when you whistle ‘free’ and when you speak with the players ‘free’, without problems, I think everyone can accept you. I think this is the best approach for the referee. I’ve asked myself many times during my career if it was correct or not to have this kind of pressure. Sometimes people are thinking the referee’s very happy when he sends off a player. No, absolutely not. I’m absolutely disappointed when I have to send off players. I don’t like it when I’m reading the newspaper or reading some social media posts, that someone is thinking that I destroyed the match myself, or the referee did in general, because I don’t want to destroy anything”. Rocchi [who retired mid-season owing to mandatory age limits]: "It’s better to finish when you are not in the last moment [of your career], because, OK, you can enjoy the moment, but the last match is not a party. The last match, if you have a passion [for what you do], it’s not an easy moment. So, sometimes it’s better that you don’t know if your last match is your last match. I can’t watch the game without feeling sad. When I was on the pitch, I didn’t even realise where I was, but now I’m at home, I do. So I never really fully appreciated what I was doing." 
Björn Kuipers: "I think all top athletes, all top sportspeople are under a certain amount of pressure, they need a certain amount of pressure, because if they don’t feel the pressure they cannot perform. Everybody needs a certain amount of stress to perform. It’s the same with top referees. I’ve been a referee for 30 years already, so if you get older and more experienced, you can deal with more pressure. When I was a younger referee, it was much harder to deal with this pressure." 
Szymon Marciniak: "We are not robots, we are only humans… Even after so many games, there’s always something we can make better and we can improve." 

Source: UEFA

UEFA Champions League 2020/2021 – Group Stage (Matchday 4)

24 November 2020
FC Krasnodar – Sevilla FC
Referee: Marco Guida (ITA, photo)
Assistant Referee 1: Ciro Carbone (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Giorgio Peretti (ITA)
Fourth Official: Fabio Maresca (ITA)
VAR: Marco Di Bello (ITA)
AVAR: Maurizio Mariani (ITA)
Referee Observer: Levan Paniashvili (GEO)

Stade Rennais – Chelsea FC
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Sander van Roekel (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Erwin Zeinstra (NED)
Fourth Official: Serdar Gözübüyük (NED)
VAR: Pol van Boekel (NED)
AVAR: Dennis Higler (NED)
Referee Observer: Miroslav Tulinger (CZE)

Lazio – Zenit
Referee: Michael Oliver (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Stuart Burt (ENG)
Assistant Referee 2: Simon Bennett (ENG)
Fourth Official: Andrew Madley (ENG)
VAR: Christopher Kavanagh (ENG)
AVAR: Craig Pawson (ENG)
Referee Observer: David Fernandez Borbalan (ESP)

Borussia Dortmund – Club Brugge
Referee: Ivan Kružliak (SVK)
Assistant Referee 1: Branislav Hancko (SVK)
Assistant Referee 2: Rui Tavares (POR)
Fourth Official: Peter Kralović (SVK)
VAR: Pawel Gil (POL)
AVAR: Bartosz Frankowski (POL)
Referee Observer: Jaap Uilenberg (NED)

Dynamo Kyiv – FC Barcelona
Referee: Matej Jug (SVN)
Assistant Referee 1: Matej Žunič (SVN)
Assistant Referee 2: Robert Vukan (SVN)
Fourth Official: Nejc Kajtazovič (SVN)
VAR: Sascha Stegemann (GER)
AVAR: Jure Praprotnik (SVN)
Referee Observer: Konrad Plautz (AUT)

Juventus – Ferencvarosi TC
Referee: Daniel Siebert (GER)
Assistant Referee 1: Jan Seidel (GER)
Assistant Referee 2: Rafael Foltyn (GER)
Fourth Official: Harm Osmers (GER)
VAR: Marco Fritz (GER)
AVAR: Mark Borsch (GER)
Referee Observer: Vladimir Antonov (MDA)

Paris Saint Germain – RB Leipzig
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Mario Diks (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Hessel Steegstra (NED)
Fourth Official: Allard Lindhout (NED)
VAR: Kevin Blom (NED)
AVAR: Jochem Kamphuis (NED)
Referee Observer: Fritz Stuchlik (AUT)

Manchester United – Istanbul Başakşehir
Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan (ROU)
Assistant Referee 1: Octavian Șovre (ROU)
Assistant Referee 2: Sebastian Gheorghe (ROU)
Fourth Official: Marius Avram (ROU)
VAR: Joao Pinheiro (POR)
AVAR: Javier Estrada Fernandez (ESP)
Referee Observer: Juan Fernandez Marin (ESP)

25 November 2020
Borussia Mönchengladbach – Shakhtar Donetsk
Referee: Cüneyt Cakir (TUR)
Assistant Referee 1: Bahattin Duran (TUR)
Assistant Referee 2: Tarik Ongun (TUR)
Fourth Official: Halil Meler (TUR)
VAR: Abdulkadir Bitigen (TUR)
AVAR: Mete Kalkavan (TUR)
Referee Observer: Drago Kos (SVN)

Olympiacos FC – Manchester City
Referee: Davide Massa (ITA)
Assistant Referee 1: Filippo Meli (ITA)
Assistant Referee 2: Stefano Alassio (ITA)
Fourth Official: Paolo Valeri (ITA)
VAR: Massimiliano Irrati (ITA)
AVAR: Alberto Tegoni (ITA)
Referee Observer: Marc Batta (FRA)

Bayern München – FC Salzburg
Referee: Orel Grinfeld (ISR)
Assistant Referee 1: Roy Hassan (ISR)
Assistant Referee 2: Idan Yarkoni (ISR)
Fourth Official: Eitan Shmuelevitz (ISR)
VAR: Roi Reinshreiber (ISR)
AVAR: David Fuxman (ISR)
Referee Observer: Bertrand Layec (FRA)

Atletico de Madrid – Lokomotiv Moskva

Referee: Slavko Vinčić (SVN)
Assistant Referee 1: Tomaž Klančnik (SVN)
Assistant Referee 2: Andraž Kovačič (SVN)
Fourth Official: Rade Obrenovič (SVN)
VAR: Bastian Dankert (GER)
AVAR: Bibiana Steinhaus (GER)
Referee Observer: Vitor Melo Pereira (POR)

Internazionale Milano – Real Madrid
Referee: Anthony Taylor (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Gary Beswick (ENG)
Assistant Referee 2: Adam Nunn (ENG)
Fourth Official: David Coote (ENG)
VAR: Stuart Attwell (ENG)
AVAR: Lee Betts (ENG)
Referee Observer: Alain Hamer (LUX)

Olympique de Marseille – FC Porto
Referee: Andreas Ekberg (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Mehmet Culum (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Stefan Hallberg (SWE)
Fourth Official: Kristoffer Karlsson (SWE)
VAR: Juan Martinez Munuera (ESP)
AVAR: Ricardo De Burgos Bengoechea (ESP)
Referee Observer: Roberto Rosetti (ITA)

Liverpool FC – Atalanta BC
Referee: Carlos Del Cerro Grande (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Juan Yuste Jimenez (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Roberto Alonso Fernandez (ESP)
Fourth Official: Jose Munuera Montero (ESP)
VAR: Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez (ESP)
AVAR: Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez (ESP)
Referee Observer: Ichko Lozev (BUL)

AFC Ajax – FC Midtjylland
Referee: Sergei Karasev (RUS)
Assistant Referee 1: Igor Demeshko (RUS)
Assistant Referee 2: Maksim Gavrilin (RUS)
Fourth Official: Kirill Levnikov (RUS)
VAR: Vitali Meshkov (RUS)
AVAR: Vladimir Moskalev (RUS)
Referee Observer: Elmir Pilav (BIH)

African referees pre-selected for FIFA Women's World Cup 2023

Of the 156 referees and assistant referees from all over the world who are candidates to officiate at FIFA Women's World Cup Australia/New Zealand 2023, 8 referees and 11 assistant referees are from CAF, coming from 15 member associations. The candidates will join the “Road to AUS/NZL” project, which will determine the best match officials to operate during the upcoming competition. 
Salima Mukansanga (RWA), Lidya Tafesse Abebe (ETH), Maria Rivet (MRI), Bouchra Karboubi (MAR), Ndidi Madu (NGA), Vincentia Amedome (TOG), Fatou Thioune (SEN), Dorsaf Ganouati (TUN)
Assistant Referees
Mary Njoroge (KEN), Lidwine Rakotozafinoro (MAD), Bernadettar Kwimbira (MWI), Queency Victoire (MRI), Diana Chikotesha (ZAM), Mimisen Iyorhe (NGA), Fatiha Jermoumi (MAR), Houda Afine (TUN), Fanta Kone (MLI), Carine Atezambong (CMR), Yara Atef (EGY)

Source: CAF

UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Qualifying Round (Matchday 15)

26-27 November 2020 

Georgia – Malta
Referee: Eszter Urban (HUN, photo)
Assistant Referee 1: Katalin Török (HUN)
Assistant Referee 2: Anita Vad (HUN)
Fourth Official: Reka Molnar (HUN)

Slovakia – Iceland
Referee: Lina Lehtovaara (FIN)
Assistant Referee 1: Tonja Paavola (FIN)
Assistant Referee 2: Lotta Vuorio (FIN)
Fourth Official: Ifeoma Kulmala (FIN)

Kazakhstan – North Macedonia
Referee: Lucie Šulcova (CZE)
Assistant Referee 1: Nikol Šafrankova (CZE)
Assistant Referee 2: Zuzana Špindlerova (CZE)
Fourth Official: Jana Adamkova (CZE)

Albania – Cyprus
Referee: Jelena Cvetković (SRB)
Assistant Referee 1: Danijela Stojanović (SRB) 
Assistant Referee 2: Ivana Jovanovic (SRB)
Fourth Official: Milica Milovanovic (SRB)

Croatia – Lithuania
Referee: Rebecca Welch (ENG)
Assistant Referee 1: Sian Massey (ENG)
Assistant Referee 2: Emily Carney (ENG)
Fourth Official: Abigail Marriott (ENG)

Germany – Greece
Referee: Marta Frias Acedo (ESP)
Assistant Referee 1: Eliana Fernandez Gonzalez (ESP)
Assistant Referee 2: Elena Pardos Mainer (ESP)
Fourth Official: Zulema Gonzalez Gonzalez (ESP)

Estonia – Turkey
Referee: Volha Tsiareshka (BLR)
Assistant Referee 1: Natalia Ceban (MDA)
Assistant Referee 2: Anastasiya Danchenko (BLR)
Fourth Official: Alena Kanaplianikava (BLR)

Russia – Kosovo
Referee: Ewa Augustyn (POL)
Assistant Referee 1: Paulina Baranowska (POL)
Assistant Referee 2: Katarzyna Wasiak (POL)
Fourth Official: Katarzyna Lisiecka-Sek (POL)

Northern Ireland – Belarus
Referee: Silvia Domingos (POR)
Assistant Referee 1: Vanessa Dias (POR)
Assistant Referee 2: Ana Silva (POR)
Fourth Official: Tatiana Martins (POR)

Portugal – Scotland
Referee: Ivana Martinčić (CRO)
Assistant Referee 1: Sanja Rodjak-Karšić (CRO)
Assistant Referee 2: Maja Petravić (CRO)
Fourth Official: Jelena Kumer (CRO)

Spain – Moldova
Referee: Shona Shukrula (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Franca Overtoom (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Nicolet Bakker (NED)
Fourth Official: Lizzy Van Der Helm (NED)

France – Austria
Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)
Assistant Referee 1: Chrysoula Kourompylia (GRE)
Assistant Referee 2: Susann Küng (SUI)
Fourth Official: Michele Schmölzer (SUI)

Handball controversy is sweeping football

Remember the penalty Tottenham Hotspur's Moussa Sissoko gave away in the 2019 Champions League final? Or Eric Dier conceding a spot kick even though the Spurs player had his back to the ball? What about Stade Rennes defender Dalbert being sent off for a second yellow card for handling the ball in the Champions League at Chelsea? ESPN has spoken to the head of referees in Germany plus high-profile ex-referees from each of Europe's top leagues, which have seen a plague of controversial handball penalties in recent seasons. Why do some leagues have many more penalties than others? Who is to blame? And what needs to happen to fix the problem?
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is leading the charge for change, proclaiming that "many unfair decisions are being made which have been met with growing frustration and discomfort by the football community." On Monday, November 23, the technical and football advisory panels of football's lawmakers, the IFAB (International Football Association Board), meet to discuss proposed law changes. This is the one and only chance for Ceferin's argument to be heard, for the matter to be debated by the referees and former players who matter, and where hope for a new handball interpretation for 2021-22 lies. The handball law was not changed for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, though VAR has undoubtedly led to it being enforced to the absolute letter. In 2014, the IFAB created its advisory panels - featuring former players such as Luis Figo and Hidetoshi Nakata - to work on the development of the Laws of the Game. The IFAB wanted to "eliminate inconsistency in the judgement applied by officials" on handball. This search for consistency has removed common sense and rational interpretation -- much to the anger of players, coaches, former referees and supporters. This strict interpretation - which removed intent and judged the arm being in an "unnatural position" away from the body and blocking the path of the ball - was first implemented by FIFA at the 2018 World Cup (the first major international tournament to have VAR). It led to nine penalty kicks for handball in the 64 games, compared to just one in the 2014 edition. France were awarded a hugely controversial penalty in the final, given against Croatia's Ivan Perisic when the score was 1-1; France went on to win the game 4-2. In 2019 a "more precise and detailed wording for the different types of handball offences" was added to the Laws (p104). This was supposed to clear up all the confusion about what FIFA and the IFAB wanted, what was a handball and wasn't. But top-level former referees say it has just led to confusion, which leaves us where we are today. Two years on from the World Cup, and at the plea of Ceferin and many within football, the IFAB has been asked to reconsider. Ceferin wants a complete backtrack, for the old handball law to be reinstated to allow the referee to make his or her own judgement on intent. But ESPN sources have said that just because some leagues shout loudest does not mean the IFAB will recommend a significant law change.

Champions League
UEFA's chief refereeing officer is Roberto Rosetti, and he is also the chairman of the IFAB Referees' Committee and sits on the IFAB Technical Subcommittee, so it will come as no surprise that the handball law has been strictly applied in UEFA competitions. Before 2018, the frequency of handball penalties was around the same as in the top leagues, but after the World Cup the number of spot kicks doubled. This season, penalties have increased again dramatically. The first three matchdays have seen 11 handball penalties awarded in just 48 games, with the frequency nearly trebling from a spot kick every 12.13 games to 4.63. It's part of a remarkable glut of penalties for all offences, now averaging one every 1.33 games - the highest in the domestic leagues is 1.90 in the Premier League, which in itself has doubled from 2019-20. In the 2019 Champions League final, Sissoko was penalised in the very first minute when the ball accidentally hit his outstretched arm, and Liverpool went on to win the game 2-0. UEFA's referees were already officiating to the definition as used in the 2018 World Cup. "The big challenge is the position of the arm," Rosetti had told The Times earlier that year in warning that handball penalties were likely to rise. "When the arm is totally out of the body above the shoulder it should be penalised. If the defender is making the body bigger in order to block the ball it is not fair. If he is looking to block a cross or a shot on goal and the player is trying to spread his body then it is a handball." This season, Rennes conceded a penalty for handball against Dalbert, when they were trailing 1-0 at Chelsea. The controversy was doubled in this instance, as Dalbert was already on a yellow card. The ball deflected off Dalbert's foot onto his arm, but because Tammy Abraham's shot was on target it was a mandatory booking. Rennes were 2-0 down and left with 10 men. "The Rennes player was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball and then sent off for a second yellow card," Halsey said of this incident. "That was absolutely scandalous, absolute nonsense. To be given as a handball and then be dismissed? It's madness, they are going to kill the game and drive fans away. OK, give the penalty but it's not a second yellow card." In his letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Ceferin made it abundantly clear he wants a rethink. But he will also need to persuade Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of the FIFA referees committee and on the same IFAB Technical Subcommittee as Rosetti. "The spirit of the game must be preserved at all times," Ceferin wrote. "I believe that going back to the previous wording, perhaps reviewed and integrated by a provision which does not allow goals to be scored with a hand/arm, is an option to be taken into account. There is no shame in admitting that sometimes decisions that are made for the good do not achieve their objectives and should be reviewed. The use of VAR in many competitions has simply exacerbated the problem and pushes referees and media to vivisection every situation, with paranoid effects and controversial outcomes."

Premier League
The Premier League had always operated with a more relaxed interpretation of handball, leaving it more to the judgement of the referee rather than trying to apply the law to the letter. In 2017-18 just six penalties were awarded, compared to 20 in Italy and 31 in Spain. The number rose in the Premier League after the 2018 World Cup to 14, then the introduction of VAR only caused the number to rise to 20 - the lowest across the top leagues last season. However, the Premier League's resistance to using the VAR protocol in full last season irked FIFA. So when world football's governing body took control of the VAR project this summer, the Premier League was told to toe the line. And that included adopting the handball law as the IFAB intended. Even though Mike Riley, the head of referees in the Premier League, had warned that there would be an increase in penalties, it proved to be a baptism of fire. In the first 28 games, six penalties were given for handball. Averaged across a season, that would lead to 81 spot kicks - 24 more than the 57 Serie A endured during its controversial 2019-20. The Premier League backtracked, agreeing to a more relaxed interpretation based on the expected position of the arm; the irony being that, despite the hullabaloo, Dier would still concede the penalty as his arm was above his shoulder - considered a mandatory penalty by the IFAB. Mark Halsey, who was a Premier League referee for 14 years and FIFA-listed for six, didn't hold back in his criticism. "We're confused of what's natural and what's unnatural," Halsey told ESPN. "That's where we're having a lot of problems and that deliberate act, or movement. The Premier League have talked about an expected position, well that word 'expected' is not in the laws of the game, so why have they brought that in? It's either a natural, or an unnatural position making the body bigger. Look at the Leicester City penalty against Wolves, and the Manchester City penalty against Liverpool; their arms are in a natural position, because they are running. You look at the penalty Dier conceded, and the Premier League say they still going to give that. He's got his back to the ball and you need your arms to elevate that lift. That is a natural position. If a player is jumping and acting as another goalkeeper, that's totally different. I remember, before I retired [in 2012], we sat in a room, all 18 professional referees. Seven or eight videos were shown for what should be deemed deliberate handball and what should not. We were astounded even then, and said 'we're not giving those.' All the referees were in agreement that we're not giving handballs of that nature, and at that time it was left to our discretion. People are telling me they can't watch it anymore and they are switching their TV off. They need to start listening to ex-referees, players and managers. It's not about the Laws of the Game, it's about knowing the game of football. We need to drastically go back to interpreting handling the ball as we always have done."

La Liga
Handball has been treated very differently in Spanish football, to the point that the ball hitting the hand usually led to a yellow card. Before the 2018 World Cup, La Liga's numbers were consistent: 20, 18 and 19 penalties awarded in the preceding three seasons. The introduction of VAR for 2018-19 saw decisions rise by 75%, with another spike last season to 48. It meant the combination of VAR and the law change had led to a 140% increase in handball penalties within two seasons. Eduardo Iturralde is Spain's most high profile former referee, having spent 17 years as a top-flight official and 15 years on FIFA's International Referees List before retiring in 2012. Iturralde has never been afraid to speak his mind after stepping away from the game, and that is no different when it comes to handball. "In Spain, we're going toward an indoor-football type sport where I believe all handballs are punishable," Iturralde told ESPN. "We should give more freedom to referees to interpret handballs. There hasn't been any change compared to last season. This 'natural or unnatural hand' thing looks good in a book but it depends how you're challenging for the ball and a lot of other things. We're heading towards all handballs being punishable. There's dialogue between the refereeing chiefs in Italy, Germany, Spain, England to all head in the same direction." Perhaps the most controversial incident came on the final day of last season, when Leganes were denied what looked to be a clear spot kick. With the score at 2-2, the ball clearly hit the outstretched arm of Madrid's Luka Jovic inside the area. A 3-2 win would have given Leganes the extra two points they needed to avoid relegation. "Leganes are in Segunda because of a handball that wasn't given that is always given," Iturralde said. "Jovic's handball in the Madrid game is a handball that's been given for years. If that isn't clear and obvious... If a handball's given and they score the penalty, Leganes would still be in the Primera. So the system is failing. The IFAB has changed 178 Laws," Iturralde added. "They want to check everything and take the responsibility away from referees. They have so many directives that they now don't know what's handball and what isn't. Handball is the most difficult thing to assess. It was in my time too, but before there weren't so many problems. Now with VAR and the criteria they've broken football's spirit. They have stopped referees from interpreting the laws. Not all handballs are the same, that's the big problem. VAR was brought in to deal with the obvious and now it's getting involved in actions which should be down to the referee. Fans can be confused, but the problem is that the players are confused, the coaches... that's the worst thing that can happen to a sport. It's been bad, not just for La Liga, but for football in general. I think referees would be more comfortable if they left them to interpret the law, if they didn't restrict them so much, and football would be better off."

Serie A
Serie A already faced the highest number of penalties before the 2018 World Cup. Thirty-one were given in the 2017-18 season, Italy's first season with VAR, which was over 50% more than La Liga and five times as many as the Premier League. After the World Cup, there was only a small rise, but after the Laws were amended in the summer of 2019 there was a 54% season-on-season increase. But this isn't only about handball, as 187 penalties were awarded in Serie A last season, 65 more than in 2018-19, with handball accounting for almost a third. It meant that roughly half of all games in the Italian top flight saw a penalty. "It's curious to see how the Italian and Spanish statistics are very similar, but distant to the Anglo-Saxon nations," Italy's referee designator, Nicola Rizzoli, said about the higher number of handball penalties in Italy and Spain compared to the other top leagues. "This denoted a substantial cultural influence in the Latin countries. There is a problem." Rizzoli was determined that Italy would not face the same situation this season, insisting "some penalties were too soft" and that "the objective is allowing defenders to play football without having their arms clamped to their side like penguins." He used the De Roon incident as a specific example of a handball which so no longer be given. His assertion that "not every contact equals a penalty" has got through. So far in 2020-21, only five penalties have been awarded for handball -- with the frequency more than halving from one every 6.67 games to 14.00. Luca Marelli is a former Serie A referee who now writes a blog on officiating and is a regular pundit on Italian radio and TV. "The principles governing what handballs are punishable and the interpretative guidelines have not changed," Marelli told ESPN. "The truth is that IFAB tried to harmonise language in the law that wasn't clear by using more granular and specific language, but, in so doing, they made a cardinal error: they failed to clearly explain that nothing would change in the concrete application of the law. Unfortunately, this change in language was treated like some kind of revolution, which it was never intended to be. That's precisely the problem we've had in Italy." Marelli is glad that, as of this season, referees are taking more responsibility for decisions rather than officiating in a matter-of-fact way. "Without question this year we'll see fewer handball penalties in Serie A and you're already noticing this in the first few match days," he added. "Referees have been given specific instructions. They've been told to be less severe in their judgement of touches in the box and VARs have been told to have fewer reviews for handball. VAR will only intervene in extreme cases, situations where arms and hands are well beyond the body's natural silhouette and in clearly unnatural positions. It's obvious though that the rise in penalties awarded for handball has a specific cause; without VAR these incidents remained 'invisible.'"

Germany suffered the biggest "shock" when it implemented FIFA's new interpretation straight after the 2018 World Cup. Referees were applying a strict definition without having a written law. It led to penalties more than doubling from 15 in 2017-18 to 31 in 2018-19. When the definition was added to the Laws in 2019, it gave German officials a clear framework to apply the Law in an objective manner. Germany returned back to a level similar to that seen in 2017-18, with 18 awarded. Players in the Bundesliga had also learned from their own experience, defending crosses into the box with their arms behind their backs. However, penalties have been on the rise again this season with five given in the first seven matchdays. If that ratio is to continue, the Bundesliga would up to 24 by the end of this campaign. As in La Liga, the most controversial decision came when a penalty was not awarded. Borussia Dortmund hosted Bayern in a crucial Bundesliga title match in May. With Bayern leading 1-0, Jerome Boateng blocked Erling Haaland's shot with his arm and it caused outrage that neither the referee nor the VAR awarded the penalty. Germany's referee chief, Lutz-Michael Frohlich, told ESPN that this was a mistake. "It's important for the referees that there is more clarity," Frohlich said of the mixed messaging since 2018. "The Law changes in 2019 were regarded more positive, but 2018 was not that helpful. It was a major step forward last season." Frohlich explained how referees from the major leagues are in regular dialogue to try an ensure a level on continuity, though as Rizzoli had explained there can be cultural differences between leagues. Frohlich is not in favour of making changes for next season. "There is a regular exchange between the referees of the top five leagues," he added. "There is not a great difference between the assessment of the individual cases. Maybe our focus in Germany has been more on the change of rules in 2019, on the aspect of the absolute intention to play handball. What we now have is a remarkably simple definition of when it's handball or not. We have well-founded exceptions. But the handball rule will always remain part of the discussion. Football has become more complex and with it the laws. You can change the laws how you like, there will always be discussions. It's less a question of the law, but rather one of the zeitgeist."

Ligue 1
Ligue 1 has followed a similar trajectory to Germany. Both leagues had an average of a handball penalty every 20 games before the 2018 World Cup. It then rose to 11.18 in France and 9.87 in Germany. French referees appear to have hit the right note, though, as this season the frequency of handballs has fallen close to the levels pre-2018. Some of the harsher any penalties awarded in Spain, Italy and England wouldn't be given in France. But that doesn't mean there aren't still issues. Former Ligue 1 referee Bruno Derrien, who now works as a consultant for RMC Sport, told ESPN that it remains controversial even if fewer penalties are being given. Rather than there being a change in interpretation, it's player behaviour which has reduced the number of handballs. "It's the same here in France," Derrien said. "Now, we punish more defenders for handballs. It's considered to be an offence when the player can't move his arm out of the way. That's why you'll see defenders put their hands behind their backs so the ball doesn't touch their hand." Derrien said that he would support a revision to the handball law, to bring it closer to the old interpretation. "By wanting to help the referees to judge the intention of handball, we've just complicated matters," Derrien added. "We must return to the origins of the law for handballs where it's a deliberate action in the case of the hand going towards the ball. Not every single handball should be punished. VAR was put in the place to amend big mistakes but not to re-officiate instead of the match official. VAR should only intervene in handball situations similar to Diego Maradona or Thierry Henry. When the handball is completely intentional and the referee misses it, which happens and it's happened to me, then that's when VAR should help out. But when it's not so obvious and the referee has seen it, there's no reason to reverse the decision."

Source: ESPN