Guilty footballer regrets playing

22:30, Sep 12 2012
Len Gattsche
LEN GATTSCHE: Had his jaw broken on both sides and in three places after red-carding a player during a football match in Auckland.

A former international football star who broke the jaw of a referee said he was coping with the death of his father just days before the match and regrets taking the field.

Samoan international Tama Fasavalu, 36, yesterday admitted a charge of wounding with intent when he appeared in the Manukau District Court in front of Judge Andree Wiltens.

He assaulted volunteer referee Len Gattsche after being sent off the field during an Anzac Day clash this year between his team Manukau City and Tauranga City.

He broke Gattsche's jaw in three places, punching him after he was given two yellow cards, then a red card, for heavy tackles.

Yesterday Fasavalu's lawyer Iuni Sapolu produced a death certificate showing Fasavalu's father died on April 9.

Outside the court Sapolu said Fasavalu played the match "because he was pushed" and should have been offered grievance counselling instead.


"It's definitely not an excuse in any way, but it's an explanation," she said.

"It's also a critique on his team's administration, not just the referee. I don't think the referee knew what that guy was going through. But his coach and his managers and all those guys they knew.

"There was pressure on him [to play], he's a good player, probably the best. He really should have been referred to counselling, grievance counselling, some kind of assistance."

In court Sapolu tried to dispute the appropriateness of Gattsche issuing the yellow cards but Judge Wiltens said the issue was "completely irrelevant".

"In sport, the referee controls the game," he said. "If he issues a card then the players abide by it, like it or not."

Gattsche needed two and a half hours of surgery and said yesterday he still experienced numbness in his face from his injuries.

The Auckland Football judicial review panel banned Fasavalu from the sport and fined his club $1000. He was also suspended from the club indefinitely.

Gattsche said Fasavalu should have pleaded guilty ''months ago".

"It would have saved a big hassle. Everybody knew he was guilty but he tried to play the system. But I'm happy though."

Auckland Now