Football referee João Pinheiro, ranked first in the last two seasons, this Friday defended heavier punishments, similar to other European countries, for those who criticize arbitration in Portugal.
“It bothers me constantly to see things not being punished. We go to other countries and, if a coach or an official speaks badly about the referee, he is punished with heavy fines, suspension or penalties that are significant. I remember the case of the coach of Arsenal [Mikel Arteta] who was punished with a two-game suspension and a fine three days after he publicly criticized a referee. He won’t stop talking, but maybe he’ll think twice. [Em Portugal] We talk about money, which for them is a day or an afternoon [de salário]. We continue to pretend that things don’t happen. We punish after a few months, then there are appeals and this punishment is suspended”, he pointed out, in an interview with Rádio Universitária do Minho (RUM), on the program ‘Rum(o) Desportivo’.
Moreover, João Pinheiro recalled criticisms about him: “They even said that ‘this referee should be arrested’, as if that were normal”. “We are in a completely separate world. I stopped watching some television programs because that was masochism, I was suffering there. People say barbarities about the person, not the referee. Saying that I am incompetent, that I am a bad referee, that I am not right and I don’t see anything, it doesn’t bother me, but that I am corrupt and that I do things on purpose to benefit one or the other, it bothers me. As long as there is no punishment for this, people continue”, he lamented.
João Pinheiro was the referee with the best rating awarded by the Arbitration Council of the Portuguese Football Federation last season, repeating the first place of 2020/21, awards that he considers to be the “best moment” of his career to date. “To be in front of great referees, like Artur Soares Dias, for me the best Portuguese referee, a referee of the UEFA elite, or Luís Godinho, António Nobre, Fábio Veríssimo, Tiago Martins, Manuel Mota – which is something that is sometimes undervalued -, we have so many good referees, it’s a reason to be proud. I had the dream of being the first classified, I never thought it would be so soon, but I took the opportunity”, he said.
João Pinheiro defended the need to “demystify” the image of referees and, for that, greater openness is needed, with visits to schools to talk to students or in interviews with the media.
However, when asked whether it would be beneficial or harmful for referees to speak at the end of games, as players and coaches, in a ‘flash-interview’ logic or even a press conference, João Pinheiro considered it a difficult question to answer, recalling experiences in other countries that “did not go well”, fearing decontextualization of the judges’ explanations.
The 34-year-old referee, from the Braga Football Association, recalled, in this regard, the fact that, “increasingly there is talk of communications between the video referee [VAR] and the referee are public, as is already the case in rugby”, considering that this will happen in the “very near future”.
Debuted in 2017 in Portugal, VAR has “clearly” improved sporting truth, considered the referee from Barcelos. “Only those who are very unfair and are not at all honest think that VAR has not improved things. We had clear situations on the pitch that the referee could not see, because they were difficult plays. Perfect is not and will never be, because it is a man, and he won’t stop being a man, which you’re seeing in VAR”, he stressed.
João Pinheiro admitted the “fundamental role” of the new tool, but stressed the difficulty of exercising it. “Being VAR is not easy because we enter that line of intervention of knowing if a mistake is clear and obvious, or not. For 50 people this mistake is clear and obvious, for another 50 it is not. That’s where the great difficulty of VAR comes in. , because he is made for clear and obvious mistakes and not, so to speak, for the best decisions”, he said.