x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

For a change a referee is praised for good work

More and more often, especially in Italy, you wonder what on earth motivates a man to sign up as a referee.

Referee Antonio Damato shows the yellow card to Napoli's Edinson Cavani.
Referee Antonio Damato shows the yellow card to Napoli's Edinson Cavani.

More and more often, especially in Italy, you wonder what on earth motivates a man to sign up as a referee.

If you are not being derided by supporters, you are being criticised in minute detail by pundits armed with umpteen camera angles and slow-motion replays.

And that is apart from 90 minutes enduring young men thrusting their wild-eyed faces into yours, arguing.

Last week, Antonio Damato, a 40-year-old lawyer from Barletta in south-east Italy, learnt of the front-page headline in one of the more shrill Italian papers.

It demanded of the Serie A authorities that Juventus versus Napoli "must not have the wrong referee". By Friday he would have been clear that many considered him "the wrong referee", too inexperienced for a top-of-the-table meeting with a fiery recent past.

Within a few moments of kick-off, it became clear several players, from both teams, thought Damato has a frailty against aggressive confrontation. They nagged him vigorously. It would be an intense match, elbows raised in aerial duels, jerseys clutched. But Damato is not a zealous whistler.

That helped the match's tempo.

The risk of taking a non-intrusive approach for a referee is that temperatures rise more suddenly, grudges build up. Damato reacted firmly when needed, though.

Even the losing coach, Napoli's Walter Mazzari, praised Damato for a fine overall performance, a strong advertisement for Italian officiating, which does not always enjoy the best reputation.

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