FIFA president Sepp Blatter yesterday insisted under-fire English referee Howard Webb had a “very hard task” in Sunday night’s fiery World Cup final.
Webb produced a record 14 yellow cards plus a red in the final between Spain and the Netherlands but Dutch players have claimed he favoured the Spanish.
Other critics have suggested that Webb should have been even tougher and sent off Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel rather than just booking them.
Blatter said: “The final was not exactly what I expected in terms of fair play.
“It’s not up to me judge the performances of the officials, I can only say it was a very hard task that the referee trio had on the field of play.
“It was not easy and they were really not helped in this task I can say.”
Blatter refused to comment on the rugged approach by the Dutch, who eventually lost 1-0 in extra time, but did say “the side that played football won”.
He said in Johannesburg: “Even though I have seen all the irregularities as a spectator, I cannot answer this question as president of FIFA. I could answer it as a fan of football but I am here as president.
“Football is a school of life because it is based on discipline and respect. It’s a combat game but in the spirit of fair play.
“You have to learn to win and you have to learn to lose, and should not forget the basis which is discipline and respect.”
Blatter was asked whether Webb should have shown a red card to Van Bommel and de Jong, and replied: “In football we have to live with the errors of players, and of referees. I don’t think perfection exists in this world.”
The FIFA president apologised to England and Mexico for refereeing mistakes earlier on in the tournament — over Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal and a Carlos Tevez header against Mexico that was blatantly offside — but he refused to extend that to Ireland for the Thierry Henry handball that led to France winning the qualifying play-off.
He said: “This was a case that has happened in a preliminary competition and now we are at the end of the World Cup, and it is odious to reopen discussions.’’ In terms of the success of the tournament Blatter said he was “more than happy”.
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