Incredible, historical and an absolutely overdue signal: As most of you have probably already seen, German Bundesliga and UEFA First Group Referee Felix Zwayer of Berlin decided to suspend Sunday's top match between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund for nine minutes - because Leverkusen's coach Roger Schmidt refused to be sent off onto the seats.
Check this video (click on the pic):
Check this video (click on the pic):
Minute 64: A Dortmund player was clearly fouled in the midfield. Zwayer correctly awarded a free-kick. Dortmund made a quick free-kick whose position was 5,8m away from where the offence had occurred. From this quickly taken free-kick, Dortmund's Aubameyang scored the only goal of the evening.
Minute 65: Protests emerged. Some players protested - according to some Dortmund players -, because they thought the ball had not been stationary. Most likely they criticized the wrong free-kick position though. Leverkusen coach Schmidt protested too much and was therefore sent off to the seats - having already been warned by the fourth official earlier in the game.
Minute 66: Schmidt continuously ignored to leave the technical area.
Minute 67: Zwayer asked the captain, Stefan Kießling - the scorer of Felix Brych's legendary ghost goal - to make his coach leave the technical area as kind of very last warning. Reading Zwayer's lips, he already indicated that otherwise he would have to halt the game. As Schmidt still did not want to go off, Zwayer ordered the teams to leave the pitch. Play was re-started 9 minutes later.
First, the free-kick decision was absolutely correct. The Laws of the Game and UEFA's practical information for match officials actually prescribe that direct free-kicks - and even quick free-kicks - have to be taken from where the offence occurred. Of course nobody knows the exact moment as the human eye is not finetuned that much in such situations. Allowing some metres deviance is surely justifiable given a) common sense (a quick counterattack was prevented, so that the non-offending team should profit from a quick execution of the free-kick) and b) a certain margin of discretion which the referee has. For my taste, 5,8m is definitely borderline, but understandable. Everybody who once has stepped on a football field knows best that estimating distances depends on the visual angle you have - from the TV or the sideline, 6 metres look more dramatically than from Zwayer's position.
Suspending the match is clearly in line with what the Laws and guidelines prescribe: If a player or team official refuses to leave the field of play or technical area having been sent off by the referee, play has to be suspended and the referee has to threaten the liable team with abandoning the match.
So, was Zwayer's decision fully right?
In my view: Yes. Allowing the free-kick as it was executed is justifiable or at least defendable for the reasons given above. Most people critizing Zwayer for his decision focussed on another point: He should have walked out to the coach and explained him a) his decision and b) why he has sent him off to the seats.
Some remarks on that:
1. It is the referee's good right to choose how he communicates with players or team officials who have been sent off. Like you do not have to justify yourself for a red card that was just issued, you do not have to explain the decision to send a coach off. If a coach is in a rage, you can try to calm him down. But you don't have to. In such cases, it is common praxis that the team captain functions as a medium between the referee and team officials.
2. What Roger Schmidt did was nothing but challenging the referee. Checking who has the bigger balls - or in less vulgar words - who has more pull.
a) Having immediately shaken his head after he was ordered to the tribune with a hand signal, Schmidt exactly knew what he was doing. The assistant referee even told him something like "Don't make it worse than it already is!".
b) Like a disappointed child, he ordered Zwayer to come to him, making gestures like "you should come to me!" If you, as a referee, react to THAT, you can better directly throw your authority in the dustbin.
c) Schmidt's co-coach even told him "come on, leave it..." - Schmidt denied that.
d) Kießling definitely informed him about what Zwayer said. He must have told him "otherwise he suspends the match" - reading Schmidt's lips, he said "He should do that...!". I am pretty sure that Schmidt did not expect that Zwayer stands by his promises...
In my opinion, Felix Zwayer cannot be praised much enough for his decision for different reasons. There is only one thing that can be maybe criticized: Ideally, he could have directly walked out to him. Immediately after the goal, after the very first protests. Like someone to whom I spoke correctly pointed out, sending someone off from much distance is "no premium solution" - Manuel Mejuto González knows that best. I however can understand why he did not do it. As soon as Schmidt tried to gain the upper hand by his "come here"-gestures, Zwayer had no other choice - he had to stay where he is.
What the world of football witnessed yesterday was a very necessary signal. Coaches turn respectless more and more. It has been the literal low point of a long trend observable during the past seasons. I think I don't have to remind you on situations like that.
The behaviour shown by some coaches like all those 'special ones' during and after the match would be described as choleric by most people and as psychopathic or narcisstic by most psychologists.
The big problem is that the behaviour at the very top - by players like Neymar diving more than playing football, by coaches behaving as Schmidt has behaved - one-to-one reaches the grassroot level at the next weekend.
Zwayer's decision, courage and determined body language is, from my point of view, nothing but a strongly needed support for hundred of thousands amateur referees keeping this sport alive every week and a very needed and overdue signal sending pictures that are going around the world. He has done something good for us referees and our authority, even though he very likely did not realize it in that moment.