Michael Oliver, the English referee in charge of the Champions League quarter final second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu has spoken out about the game and the subsequent abuse that he and his family received.
Penalty decision provokes fan outrage
After winning the first leg in Turin - three goals without reply - there were few who could have believed what was to happen in Madrid. Juventus incredibly levelled the aggregate score at 3-3 but with just seconds remaining of normal time Lucas Vázquez was adjudged to have been fouled in the area by Juve defender Benatia and Oliver pointed to the spot. Cristiano Ronaldo duly scored past Gigi Buffon and passage to the semi-finals was secured.
That decision, made in a split second, was one debated for hours and days afterwards, with even several views from various angles at differing speeds unable to get a consensus on whether the penalty should have been given. This even included former referees disagreeing. However, despite the uncertainty, angry fans targeted the official and his family with a torrent of abuse.
'Humbling' support for Oliver
Speaking to the English Football Association, Oliver said:
“It was a weird few days. But it was nice that so many people, both within the game and outside the game, were keen to offer their support. It was quite humbling actually and it meant a lot.
“I had people coming up to me in the street and people from inside the game were sending me messages of support. It’s a nice thing to know I’ve got that backing.”
More than just backing, Oliver also received a special call, one from The FA requesting him to take charge of their domestic cup final in May. This year's FA Cup Final will be contested between Manchester United and Chelsea and the referee was touched by the offer:
FA Cup Final referee
“I was very proud and humbled to receive the call,” he said. “When you start out, taking charge of the Cup Final is not something you even think about. As your career progresses it becomes a realistic target but it’s not a call you ever expect to take.
“This opportunity only comes around once in a referee’s career.
“It’s funny how things work out because the 1994 Final between Manchester United and Chelsea is the first one I remember watching. And now here I am taking charge of those two teams in an FA Cup Final 24 years later.”