FIFA’s referees chief has come to the defence of Swedish official Jonas Eriksson after he was accused by Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini of favouring Barcelona.
Jim Boyce, a FIFA vice-president from Northern Ireland, said it was “absolute nonsense” for Pellegrini to suggest that UEFA should not have chosen a referee from Sweden for such an important Champions League match as Tuesday’s last-16 fixture.
Boyce’s view is that Eriksson performed well in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
Pellegrini claimed Eriksson, who awarded a penalty against City and sent off Martin Demichelis, had “not been impartial”.
Eriksson, 39, has been selected by FIFA for the World Cup finals in Brazil, and Boyce, chairman of FIFA’s referees committee, told Press Association Sport: “It is absolute nonsense to say a referee should not be chosen for an important match because he comes from a smaller country.
“If the referee has proved himself at the top level it should not matter what country they come from.
“All the referees who have been chosen for the World Cup have been assessed by experienced officials who have been involved at FIFA and UEFA level and marked on their performances in the World Cup and confederation competitions at a high level.”
Boyce added: “I read the remarks that were made by the Manchester City manager. I saw the game and my own personal opinion is that I thought the referee had a good game. He is a very experienced referee who has been chosen for the World Cup because of excellent reports of his performances in Europe.”
Pellegrini claimed Eriksson was “on Barcelona’s side from beginning to end”, and trying to make up for a previous mistake against the Catalan side.
The City manager said: “From the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial to both teams.
“I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge of such an important match, especially a referee who has made an important mistake against Barcelona in a previous match.
“[It’s] more important football in Europe than Sweden. A big game with two important teams, that kind of game needs a referee with more experience.”