he legendary referee of the Chelsea-Barcelona game in 2009), Tom Henning Ovrebo, (Oslo, Norway, 1966) is now 51 years old and lives peacefully in the Norwegian capital. He went down as one of the most controversial referee in the history of UEFA.
MARCA caught up with the official for an exclusive interview.
First of all. What does Mr Ovrebo do now?
“I don’t referee anymore, although when my colleagues need some advice, especially from the mental point of view, I try to help them. But I don’t participate on a daily basis.”
Why? Elite referees often get involved after their retirement.
“I’m fine as it is. I’ve been working for many years at weekends, refereeing everywhere. And now I want to have more free time. That’s it.”
Let’s cut to the chase: May 6, 2009. Are you proud of your performance that night?
“No, not at all. It was not my best day, really. But those mistakes can be committed by a referee … and sometimes a player or a coach. Some days you’re not at the level you should be. But no, I can’t be proud of that performance.”
Did you watch the whole game sometime after that night?
“I always saw the plays repeated a couple of times and learned from possible mistakes. But that game was many years ago and I don’t have to improve anything, since I no longer referee. I only remember that day again when journalists like you remind me so much later. I don’t mind talking about it because it’s part of my career.”
Chelsea claimed at least four clear penalties. What do you think was your most serious mistake?
“There were several errors and everyone will have their opinion of those plays. But, I insist, the players and the coaches also fail, and nothing happens. I am proud of having had a long career and having been in the European elite for a while, and among the best in my country at least. That’s why you can’t remember me or my career just for that game, although some people, like you, do so… unfortunately.”
It was a Champions League semifinal…
“Yes, it is clear that it was the return of the semis and everyone was aware of that shock. Only from that point of view is it understandable that many remember me for that day at Stamford Bridge.”
Remember the two handballs of Pique and Eto’o
“Of course, and yes, they were handball situations. I judged them on the pitch and I think it is not interesting to know what I think of those actions once judged, although I understand that people think differently to the decisions I made at the time. That discussion will continue eternally.”
Ballack protested to you angrily. Why did you not send him off?
“After the game it is easy to say: ‘Why was this done and not the other?’ For me the important thing was to learn from my mistakes. I made that decision not to send him off and that’s it. And it’s difficult to explain why some decisions are made on the pitch and not others. It may be due to pressure… or in that event it could be because Ballack protested from behind and I didn’t see it. There can be many reasons in each decision.”
Did you feel pressure? Eto’o’s handball was right at the end.
“No, I was used to the pressure. You simply see the plays differently. That’s it.”