Drogba says sorry in ref row
ENGLAND: The Uefa general secretary, David Taylor, has condemned Chelsea's players for haranguing the referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, in the immediate aftermath of their Champions League elimination to Barcelona and said the European game's governing body "expect better" in terms of the respect shown to match officials.
Uefa was awaiting the reports from the Norwegian referee and the match delegate last night but is expected to launch an inquiry into the ugly scenes that erupted as the players departed the turf at Stamford Bridge that could potentially see up to five charges brought against Chelsea.
Didier Drogba is braced to be sanctioned for sprinting back on to the pitch to abuse Ovrebo, despite issuing a grovelling apology last night, while Michael Ballack could face punishment for a similar outburst. John Terry and Jose Bosingwa could be charged for comments made about the referee and his appointment, while Chelsea could be charged with failing to control their players.
Chelsea's hierarchy were unimpressed by Drogba's behaviour, a reality that may yet have serious implications for the striker's future given that he only has a year to run on his current contract, though they welcomed his public apology. "I was very upset at what happened during the game, but having seen the pictures on TV I accept that I overreacted," said the 31-year-old. "I also fully accept that the language I used did not set a good example for those watching at home, especially children. I regret that in the heat of the moment I let out my incredible frustration and disappointment in this way, and for that I apologise."
Taylor was quick to dismiss conspiracy theories first mooted by Chelsea's furious players that Uefa had not wanted a repeat of last season's all-English Champions League final against Manchester United, but admitted disgust at the abuse of Ovrebo. "When we get to the top level we expect better in terms of players' behaviour," said the Uefa general secretary.
"Refereeing is an extremely difficult job. All I would ask is a bit more respect is shown towards officials. Notwithstanding the high emotions, high drama, high stakes involved, these guys are out there in the middle having to make decisions just like that, on the spot. I spoke to [the Chelsea chief executive] Peter Kenyon at the end of the match and he fully accepts there are no conspiracies at all. Of course there are questions from time to time about refereeing standards, but that's looked at continually in terms of performances. That's what we do as a responsible organisation."
While Drogba admitted he had "overreacted" following Andrés Iniesta's 93rd minute equaliser, searing disappointment of the referee's performance remains after four plausible penalty appeals were turned down. "We are all acutely aware of the responsibilities that lie with both the club and its players towards setting a good example as role models," said a Chelsea spokesman. "While it is clear that some of the events were regrettable, they occurred only because of the high emotions and frustrations which arose from the disappointment of a controversial defeat in such an important game. We made representations to Uefa immediately after the game and we await their comments."
That report is likely to touch on several issues. Bosingwa told Portuguese television immediately after the match that "this referee was bought". "I do not know if he is a referee or a thief," he added, though he apologised yesterday and put his comments down to "disappointment" and "frustration". Whether that retraction is enough to avoid punishment remains to be seen, with Ballack, who was booked for sprinting 40 yards to berate the referee after seeing the fourth penalty appeal turned down, likely to see his conduct scrutinised given that his protests were maintained after the final whistle.
Uefa will also take a dim view towards Terry's questioning of the appointment of such a relatively inexperienced official, though the focus will centre on Drogba. The substituted striker had to be restrained by stewards and his manager, Guus Hiddink, after returning to the pitch on the final whistle to brand the referee "a fucking disgrace", his outburst broadcast live on television with his complaints continuing down the tunnel."I don't know what people expect," added Frank Lampard. "When you have 11 grown men battling to get to the final and at least three penalty decisions don't go your way, you can't expect men to walk off quietly. I can understand Didier's reactions. He's an emotional man, and that's the sort of player you want to play with. I think people can relate to that. There was nothing violent. It was just angry because we had worked so very hard to get that far. You have to wonder why it happened."