Search icon


19th Oct 2016

Howard Webb reveals the worst decision of his refereeing career

A definite red card

Darragh Murphy

Why would anyone want to be a football referee?

A more thankless task is difficult to imagine given how frequently that they’re hit with abuse for incorrect decisions and the scarcity of pats on the back they receive when they make the right call.

It takes a certain kind of personality to succeed in that industry and Howard Webb will go down as one of the most respected officials ever to pull on a whistle.

Now retired, the esteem in which Webb was held is perhaps best highlighted by the fact that he became the first man to referee the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same year.

Webb now provides analysis of refereeing decisions for BT Sport but he’s still kept awake by wrong decisions he made, with one in particular weighing heavy on his mind.

Slovakia v Italy: Group F - 2010 FIFA World Cup

During a recent Facebook Q&A for Match of the Day, Webb was asked to divulge the worst decision he’d ever made and his answer will surprise few as he named an incident from the foul-heavy 2010 World Cup final.

“Nigel de Jong’s Kung-Fu kick was probably the thing that’s most notable in my career in that World Cup final,” Webb said.

“It’s notable for several reasons. If that had happened in just a regular league game, people would have long since forgotten about it but because it was the World Cup final and because it was quite an unusual situation (it is remembered).

“It was de Jong going with a high foot for a bouncing ball which Xabi Alonso of Spain headed just before he got there and the foot of de Jong went into the chest of Xabi Alonso.

Netherlands v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup Final

“Was it a Kung-Fu kick? It was described as that. I don’t think it was but looking from the TV, of course it’s a red card.

“At the time I was looking through the back of Xabi Alonso and didn’t have the certainty to see that the contact was significant. I decided that it was a reckless foul and only a yellow card.

“It lives with me a lot now when I comment on situations. People will say ‘How does Howard Webb know anything? He didn’t even recognise a Kung-Fu kick in the World Cup final.’

“Having seen it on TV, of course I now see it’s a red card. That’s one that lives with me more than any decision I’ve ever made.”
Catch up with the latest episode of Football Friday Live