I was working a college playoff match, a regional semi for the NCCAA. These are teams that didn’t make the NCAA playoffs but are still good teams. About 20mins into the match, during a scramble in the box, one of the players pulled off a fine save with is hand. Problem being, he wasn’t the keeper. I saw the hand but not the player, AR1 saw the player. So after a quick confab with AR1 the player was isolated, shown the red card and ejected from the game. The ejected player and his team were very good about the whole thing; only one half hearted complaint, “Come one ref that wasn’t an obvious goal!?” The resulting PK was converted and the game was 1-0. Up to that point the game had been pretty much one way for the team that was now down to 10 men. After the send off the game play was 50-50. Play went back and forth, fast and hard. A keeper mistake put the score at 2-0 to end the 1st half. In the second half play was still 50-50 but the 10-man team was getting the better opportunities and a very nice cross put the score at 2-1. Not long after that goal they had another opportunity in the box. Their lone forward ran into the penalty area with the ball at his feet and a clear shot on goal. I trailed him by about 10 yards, just off the top of the arc. As he was planting to shoot when the central defender came in from the side and gave me a nice little challenge to the ground. So I called a PK. Which was converted. The game was now 2-2 with about 15 mins to go. Of course we went to OT and that only lasted 2mins. A defensive mistake by the same central defender left the ball free in the penalty area with his keeper out of position and an opposition forward running in. The ball was easily put in the back of the net and the game was over.
I told you about the game for context. While I was still on the field the losing Coach comes up and hands me his card, no hand shake, and says, “You can send the apology here.” Cheeky really, but it did get me to thinking.
There are times that I’m sorry during or after a game. I was sorry about ejecting the player that handled the ball going into the goal, but it had to be done. I’m sorry that the Coach’s team lost but we had to have a winner and the other team scored more goals. I don’t know of any official that likes to caution or eject players, but it’s part of the job. So I could say I’m sorry about ejecting anyone. I can’t think of a game I’ve ever worked when I thought to myself, “I really hope team X loses.” After the above mentioned game the losing keeper was still on the ground, after a futile attempt to stop the winning goal. I was sorry that his team lost, I wanted to go over and give him a hand up and tell him that. That really wasn’t the time nor place, I will next time I see him (he’s a fellow official).
So yes I do apologize to every team that has ever lost a game that I’ve officiated. Hell I’ll even go so far as to say I’m sorry for any team that has lost a game. I know it’s not supposed to be about winning or losing. So why to we keep score. Truth is no one wants to lose.