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Mateu Lahoz and a new style of refereeing

AS AS 13/05/2014 Alfredo Relaño

On Saturday we are going to have an absolutely top drawer, thriller of a match. A League game turned into a Championship decider, a rare thing indeed. Yesterday I mentioned the two times we’ve had this before in Spain: in 45-46, Barça-Sevilla (1-1, champions Sevilla) and 50-51 (Sevilla-Atlético, 1-1, champions Atlético). Someone mentioned to me the famous last day league decider between Atlético-Barcelona of 70-71, which also ended 1-1, but that was a different case, because it was Valencia that took the title, despite losing in Sarriá. The draw handed them the championship, though either Atleti or Barça would have clinched it with a win. Saturday is different – the champions will be one of the two sides at the Camp Nou. There is no third party.

An important match, then. And the referee will be Mateu Lahoz*, a good ref, who distinguishes himself from many of the others by letting the play flow. Some say too much in fact. It’s the English style on Spanish soil. Quite a few Spanish referees can be heard muttering about him, particularly for being too soft with this cards. What’s certain is that he doesn’t follow the style that dominates and has been encouraged here in Spain – very strict, pernickety at times. But if he’s been given this game it’s because the head honchos rate him. Someone asked me why Velasco Carballo, our World Cup referee, isn’t taking it. He can’t, because he’s from Madrid.

In any case, it’s a sign of change that Mateu Lahoz has been given first the Cup final and then this game, the two biggest of the season. He’s made an effort not to be as free with the cards. The Referee’s Committee has decided to move towards a style that favours more football and less whistling. We come from an authoritarian refereeing culture that produces officials like the wretched Muñoz Mayordomo, who sent off Castilla’s doctor for insisting on treating a player who was unconscious. Our refereeing needs to be more laid back. Let’s see if we’re lucky and things start to change.

* The referee’s full name is Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz, with Mateu being his first, paternal, surname and Lahoz his second, maternal, surname, following Spanish naming conventions. In Spain, in general, referees are referred to by both their surnames, for example González González (full name José Luis González González). See here on Spanish naming customs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_naming_customs

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