A Russian TV football commentator became so enraged over the refereeing of a first division football match that he walked out halfway through the second half, leaving viewers to watch the remainder listening to dead air.
During the televised match between Russian first division teams Torpedo Vladimir and Tekstilshchik Ivanovo, finely balanced at 1-1 during the second period, Ivanovo goalkeeper Alexei Smirnov skittled an attacking player in the penalty area, online video shows.
Instead of granting a penalty kick, and to the fury of commentator Vladimir Nikolsky and many in the stadium, referee Pyotr Miroshnichenko awarded a free kick outside the box, national paper Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.
And when the resulting free kick appeared to be batted away by a defender’s hands – another clear penalty to those watching – the referee waved play on, resulting in a lengthy diatribe from the commentary box on the standard of the officiating.
After a two-minute-long rant, during which Mr Nikolsky repeatedly called the official a “disgrace to Russian football”, he got up and walked out, saying: “Watch the football without a commentator.”
The match itself ended in a 1-1 draw.
Speaking to Russian broadcaster RT after the game, Mr Nikolsky said he didn’t regret his actions. “I become emotional when I see that our team is being hurt,” he said.
He added that he was proud of the fact that during his two-minute rant, he managed not to swear, and the club hasn’t asked him to apologise.
He works for Torpedo as part of local league rules, which say that teams must provide the broadcast services of their matches. This means that TV companies don’t have to travel thousands of miles across Russian territory, and has been an arrangement which has led to passionate reporting.
His actions have received the backing of the team’s fan club, with its president Valery Puzanov telling RT: “He is not just an employee of the club, but a fan like me. If Nikolsky is punished, the club and the fans will support him. Nikolsky did everything right.”
With refereeing standards under the spotlight in the lead-up to next year’s World Cup, it’s one match that could have benefited from video assistant referees: Assistant officials who review match-changing decisions using video footage.
However, when they were used in the Confederations Cup, which was this year hosted in Russia, they were criticised as a “shambles”. World governing body FIFA hopes to have refined the process by the time the World Cup arrives in the country next June.
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Reporting by Alistair Coleman, James Vick
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