It’s the photo that defined the weekend’s Premier League action and sparked debate around the world.
Erling Haaland reacted wildly to referee Simon Hooper’s decision not to play an advantage in the closing moments of Manchester City’s 3-3 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Haaland was fouled in City’s half, but Hooper initially appeared to indicate an advantage when Haaland released the ball, only to withdraw play with Jack Grealish in goal.
Haaland – and other City players – protested to Hooper on the pitch. The forward also reposted a clip of the incident on Twitter commenting “Wtf”.
City were also blamed by the Football Association for the way their players surrounded Hooper, with the FA claiming that “the club failed to ensure that their players did not behave inappropriately”.
There has been a lot of discussion about refereeing in England in recent weeks, especially after Mikel Arteta’s reaction to Anthony Gordon’s goal conceded to Newcastle mid-last month.
Here, Atletico’s experts give their thoughts on the photo and Haaland’s reaction.
It’s a horrible photo. I understand the frustration, but when things escalate like that – screaming in the referee’s face, shouting “Fuck you” – it’s unacceptable and unforgivable. We can all explain the frustration quite easily, because it was clear that Simon Hooper should have played up front, but you can’t justify a referee being bullied like that.
Nor can the FA allow it to go unpunished. Like when Manchester United players persecuted Andy D’Urso in 2000, like when Gianluigi Buffon shouted at Michael Oliver in 2018, like when Jurgen Klopp shouted in the face of fourth official John Brooks this year, the game must send a strong message that this type of behavior cannot be tolerated.
It was one of those decisions that would drive you crazy. But players must learn that if they confront the referee as Haaland did – and as Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and most other Manchester City players did not – they will be punished.
And, aside from missing a game due to suspension, I’d like to see abusive players and coaches forced to officiate a base game as part of their sanction. It might teach them that it’s not as easy as they think.
I once umpired the Sunday League.
The general feeling I had, especially in the frenetic moments of matches, was that a lot can be forgiven during the first three to five seconds of instinctive exasperation, particularly when you as a referee know you’ve made a mistake.
But beyond that, players and coaches should be able to regain a sense of perspective. So the initial frustration, even if imperfect in a still image, isn’t a big deal to me.
The melodramatic unleashing of Haaland’s golden locks, her frantic stride off the pitch, and subsequent “Wtf” tweet (viewed more than 50 million times), ratcheting up the pressure on an official, probably prompts, at least, a reminder of her responsibility.
For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced that Grealish necessarily had the pace to run and score, with a couple of defenders running back, and a more likely reason why City didn’t win the game on Sunday was sloppy defending and l Haaland’s unusually uneven finish.
The still image looks bad, as does the Klopp vs Brooks one.
I have some sympathy because when you play you are caught up in the moment, it’s harder to control your emotions and it’s shocking a decision that potentially denies them victory. We are all guilty of doing this.
Likewise, no one would argue that players surrounding referees is a good thing. They look like petulant children in a schoolyard.
One thing rugby gets right that football doesn’t is the respect shown towards referees.
And to think that, over the centuries, women have been told that we are the most emotional ones…
Just kidding, but clearly the photo doesn’t look good. Maybe it’s just unfortunate timing. After all, any player or coach could be guilty of this – this is not just Erling Haaland’s problem. But he says something about the relationship between the world of football and referees at the moment.
Referees are being abused at unprecedented levels and we are losing too many for this to be sustainable. At the same time, trust in them from fans and players has never been lower when the risks and rewards based on the outcome of individual decisions have never been higher.
Please send responses on how to rebuild the bridge of trust and respect between referees and players on a postcard addressed to Mr H Webb, PGMOL Headquarters.
@tifofootball_ Referees now have their own TV show #Referees #VAR #PremierLeague #Soccer #Soccer ♬ original sound – Tifo Calcio
You can’t kill the emotion of the game and its intensity. There is a correct way to express yourself. But emotional reaction is normal in that photograph and you shouldn’t be punished for it. This is also partly why comparisons with rugby don’t always work, as football is much more fluid and less stop-start.
That said, continued negative reactions on the pitch and after the match (e.g. Haaland’s histrionics here or Arsenal’s statement after Arteta’s reaction to refereeing decisions), are where you will probably need punishment.
In the City-Spurs match it was clearly a refereeing error. Hooper knows it. It’s a big mistake, but he doesn’t need to be attacked for it. It’s not that other mistakes weren’t made during the match, like missing an open goal…
The idea of dissent without a bin is good in principle, but there is room to abuse it. I recently played a match without containers in the Sunday League where someone was constantly chatting to a referee, to no avail. The sin container worked. When he returned to the pitch he had calmed down and didn’t say anything to the referee. The referee played a great game, easier to manage.
Cross the limit and you should be punished. Basically, this doesn’t happen enough in football. Dissent enforcement has been too lax for too long.
It’s an appalling reaction and there’s no place for it, just as there was no place for Klopp’s outburst at the fourth official. This stuff matters, accumulates and trickles down the pyramid, a steady stream of cascading toxicity that ends up with grown men shouting at teenage referees in the park at the weekend because their children’s under-9s team didn’t get a penalty.
The referee has made a mistake, and it is a serious one, but it is worth remembering that at this point he has run more than 10km, is not being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week and, as far as I can remember, it is that afternoon he made the same number of obvious errors as Haaland.
But what struck me most is that we’ve just spent two weeks complaining about VAR and clamoring for a return to the days when referees just refereed and we all got along. Well, this was refereeing by a referee and people are still losing their minds and wondering about conspiracies.
Maybe the problem isn’t the referees…
How did Pep Guardiola react to the accident?
City manager Pep Guardiola defended Haaland but refused to criticize Hooper for the decision.
“Sometimes I lose my mind over the referees, but not here. “People can always make mistakes,” he told her.
“I was surprised that he went to blow the whistle when Erling fell, but after he got up and made the pass, the referee made a gesture to continue playing. But then, when the ball goes to Jack, the whistle comes.”
When asked about Haaland, Guardiola said: “It’s normal.
“He’s a bit disappointed. Even the referee: if he played for Manchester City today, he would be disappointed with that action, that’s for sure.
“But I would say we didn’t draw because of that.”
(Top photo: Darren Staples/AFP via Getty Images)