Football referees have a tough job. Professional matches would descend into chaos without them, and yet their mere presence is enough to provoke some pretty below-the-belt chants from the stands.
Of course, they make mistakes – they’re only human – but when you consider that the correct call, by design, goes largely unnoticed, it follows that the glaring errors are remembered because they are rare…right? Sure, why not. But none of this matters when the ref costs your team the match.
Before you take a moment to recall all the times a useless referee has slighted your beloved club, we want to bring you a story about a match official making a correct decision that will also be remembered for a while.
Late last month, former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg stopped a Saudi Arabia cup match between Al Feiha and Al-Fateh last week out of respect for the call to prayer.
The only reason the match was still going when the Adhan sounded around the King Salman Sport City Stadium from nearby mosques was because it had run into extra time.
The footage makes for an impressive watch, and an even better listen.
— MBC PRO SPORTS (@MBCProSports) January 24, 2018
Clattenburg earned widespread praise from football fans (and non football fans) in the country, where he has been serving as Head of Refereeing for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation since February of last year.
Fans in KSA are admiring and appreciating your decision today to stop the game during Athan for prayer.
Thanks Mr. Mark.
— Abo Ali (@Abo_Ali_Khalaf) January 24, 2018
Mr @clattenburg1975 , What you did today in the Fayha vs Fateh game was really nice , It showed that you are very respectful and you indeed deserve the position you’re in , Good luck to you.
— saud aljohani (@saudj99) January 24, 2018
— Dr Haji (@ab_haji20) January 24, 2018
Clattenburg’s decision to pause the game might not qualify as a global news story, but it’s certainly refreshing to stumble on an example of someone respecting local customs. Particularly given the moment, which was so powerful and striking.
It was a simple gesture, but one that reminds us how something like sport does not impinge on faith, and vice versa.
The match resumed after the Adhan. Al Feiha went on to score in the 118th minute to seal their place in the quarter-finals.