Argentine referee Delfino changes mind and throws soccer into chaos

Argentine referee German Delfino has the world of soccer in uproar for doing the right thing, namely reversing the decision to mark a penalty kick and send off a player for handball after an auxiliary saw the incident on video and informed him of his wrong decision. Delfino's courage has landed him in trouble, however.

The Argentine referee booked a player for what he perceived as handball in the penalty area, then showed the player a second yellow card (meaning a red card and therefore an expulsion) for protesting, and marked a penalty kick... only to change his mind when the linesman consulted a video and informed the referee he had made the wrong decision. Now the ref is in trouble, for doing the right thing.

The incident occurred this weekend during the match between Argentine sides Velez Sarsfield and Arsenal, the eighth match this season in the Argentine soccer championship. Velez Sarsfield  was attacking on their home pitch and striker Mariano Pavone disputed the ball with Arsenal defender Daniel Valencia. It seemed as if Valencia had handled the ball in the area, and so referee German Delfino, 36 years of age, one of the most respected in Latin America, pulled out the yellow card, signaling an infraction, and awarded Velez Sarsfield a penalty kick.

Daniel Valencia protested his innocence and was awarded a second yellow for contesting the referee's decision, and was therefore sent off (two yellow cards equals a red card, which is expulsion from the game). Uproar ensued among the visiting players and coaching staff.

However, the linesman Ivan Nunez saw a video replay of the incident and saw that it was not Valencia, but the Velez Sarsfield striker himself who had handled the ball, and informed the referee through their communication channel.

Change of mind

Before the penalty kick was taken, referee German Delfino annulled it, and called back the expelled player, annulling his red card, and awarded a yellow card instead to the striker, Pavone, courageously reversing his decision to impose what he considered to be right. Uproar ensued among the home fans.

Polemic decision

However, the use of video conferencing to check decisions made by referees is not allowed in soccer (as it is in certain other sports) and now the referee's future in the game lies with the Argentine Football Federation which will decide his fate. This may mean a temporary ban from the game. For doing the right thing.

However, the referee considers he was correct. After the game he said it was a horrible time he passed through but "I am going home in peace knowing I did the right thing".

The incident can be seen on You Tube with the title "Penal anulado".

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 Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


([email protected])

*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. He is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights.


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey