x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE ref forgives boy, 14, who threw battery at him

Mohammad Al Muhairi was left bleeding from the head after being hit by the battery, thrown by the fan during extra time of a match between Al Ain and Al Ahli on April 6.

DUBAI // A 14-year-old football fan who threw a mobile-phone battery at an assistant referee’s head during a match avoided criminal prosecution yesterday because the official has withdrawn his complaint.

Essam Al Humaidan, Dubai’s Attorney General, said the teenager had been arrested and the head of the Family and Juveniles Prosecution Mohammed Rustom had charged him with assaulting the safety of the victim.

However, the charge is considered a misdemeanour and the withdrawal of the complaint meant the court was obliged to drop the case.

The assistant referee, Mohammed Al Muhairi, said last night his mother had urged him to forgive the boy because he was only 14.

“I looked at it from a fatherly point of view,” he said. “It is what we learnt from our leaders and what we in turn teach the younger generation, a lesson of tolerance and forgiveness.

“My mother said to me, ‘He is a kid. Beware, Mohammed, and try to understand, finish this matter’. I said to myself that this must have happened in a moment of recklessness and thought of it as an educational and correctional message to youth.

“This will leave a positive impact among young people of the boy’s age, it was a lesson for them and for us that this is a country of safety and forgiveness.”

Mohammed Omar, head of the Football Association’s referee committee, said the teenager would never repeat such behaviour.
“Others who read about the incident will also not attempt such an act, which is not typical of the Emirati community,” he said.

Rather than punish an individual, the referee committee saw the need to educate the younger generation about the ethics involved in supporting football clubs.

Mr Omar called for security forces to cooperate with sports authorities in reaching out to young fans.

“Next year we will start holding lectures in schools to educate students about undesirable behaviour and to teach them positive ethics in sport.”

He denied reports that any referee had resigned after the incident, and said all referees were aware of the challenges that come with the job.

“A referee is just a human being and can make a mistake at any time. Some fans do not take that easily, especially if the mistake was not in their favour. If their team wins, they may let it go, but otherwise may not.”

He said there was nothing wrong in protesting against a referee’s decision, but that this should be done in a civilised manner.

The boy, an Al Ahli fan, threw the battery at the official in the closing stages of the match between Al Ahli and Al Ain at Rashed Stadium in Dubai on April 6. With two minutes remaining of five minutes’ stoppage time, the score was 0-0 and Mr Al Muhairi has just turned down a penalty claim by Al Ahli.

The assistant referee, bleeding profusely from a head injury caused by the battery, required medical treatment on the pitch.

The match was officially abandoned. After an investigation, the FA disiplinary committee awarded Al Ain a 3-0 win and ordered Al Ahli to play their next two home matches at a neutral venue, behind closed doors.

salamir@thenational.ae