NZ ref O'Leary urged to ignore World Cup rage
SAM WORTHINGTON AND ALEXANDRA NEWLOVE
Mike Hester, the first New Zealander to referee a World Cup match, hopes the online abuse and a reported death threat will not drive Kiwi ref Peter O'Leary from the game.
Whangarei schoolteacher O'Leary controlled his first World Cup game on Sunday, a controversial 1-0 win to Nigeria over Bosnia.
World Cup debutantes Bosnia felt slighted by two crucial refereeing decisions; with Edin Dzeko's goal wrongfully disallowed for offside after Kiwi assistant Mark Rule raised his flag, and Peter Odemwingie's winning goal allowed, despite Bosnian protests of Nigerian foul play in the buildup.
The Northern Advocate newspaper reported it had received a call, supposedly from a Bosnia-Herzegovina fan, threatening to kill O'Leary, and that Whangarei police were investigating.
The loss ended Bosnia-Herzegovina's chances of advancing to the round of 16.
"Obviously it's high stakes at the World Cup and there is a lot of emotion that goes with it," said Hester, who refereed the 2010 World Cup game between Greece and South Korea.
"They've made a decision that they will be disappointed with [the offside call] but it's just a decision. The consequences that flow from that is not their responsibility. Whether he [O'Leary] continues refereeing or not, hopefully he will because he has lots of experience. Refereeing is tough and mistakes are unfortunately part of it."
Regarding the buildup to Odemwingie's goal, in which Bosnia-Herzegovina captain Emir Spahic claimed to be fouled by Emannuel Emenike, the now retired Hester said: "It's not tiddlywinks. They need to fight and defend their space. It's arguable whether the players involved did that, appropriately."
The all-Kiwi trio of O'Leary, Rule and Jan-Hendrik Hintz were more than qualified to officiate at World Cup level, in Hester's view. "They've been operating at the elite level for the best part of five years."
Brett Chibnall said O'Leary, his friend and colleague, was "hurting and upset".
"The Bosnians are identifying and blaming anyone they can because they're upset," Chibnall said. "Their lead striker [Dzeko] couldn't score in the last second of the game. He looked like he was out for a morning stroll."
Chibnall wasn't concerned about O'Leary's safety, and was confident he would bounce back emotionally.
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