João Pinheiro: “To say that I am not right and that I see nothing does not bother me, but that I am corrupt…” – Arbitration

Football referee João Pinheiro, ranked first for the past two seasons, defended this Friday for heavier penalties, similar to other European countries, for those who criticize refereeing in Portugal.

“It constantly bothers me to see things go unpunished. You go to other countries and if a coach or an official speaks badly of the referee, they are punished with heavy fines, suspensions or penalties which are I remember the case of the Arsenal manager [Mikel Arteta] who received a two-game suspension and a three-day fine after publicly criticizing a referee. He won’t stop talking, but maybe he’ll think twice. [Em Portugal] We talk about money which, for them, is a day or an afternoon [de salário]. We keep pretending things aren’t happening. We punish after a few months, then there are appeals and this sentence is suspended”, he pointed out, in an interview with Rádio Universitária do Minho (RUM), on the program ‘Rum(o) Desportivo’.

Besides, João Pinheiro remembered the criticisms towards him: “They even said that ‘this referee should be arrested’, as if it were normal”. “We are in a world completely apart. I stopped watching certain television programs because it was masochism, I suffered there. People say barbarities about the person, not about the referee. Say that I’m incompetent, that I’m a bad referee, that I’m not right and I don’t see anything, I don’t mind, but that I’m corrupt and do things on purpose to benefit one or on the other, it bothers me as long as there is no punishment for it, people continue,” he lamented.

João Pinheiro was the referee with the highest rating awarded by the Arbitration Board of the Portuguese Football Federation last season, repeating the first place of 2020/21, an award he considers the “best moment” of his career to date. “To be in front of great referees, like Artur Soares Dias, for me the best Portuguese referee, a UEFA elite referee, or Luís Godinho, António Nobre, Fábio Veríssimo, Tiago Martins, Manuel Mota – which is sometimes underrated – we have so many good referees, it’s a reason to be proud. I dreamed of being the first classified, I didn’t think it would be so soon, but I took advantage of it”, did he declare.

João Pinheiro defended the need to “demystify” the image of referees and, for this, greater openness is needed, with visits to schools to talk to students or in interviews with the media.

However, when asked if it would be beneficial or harmful for the referees to speak at the end of the matches, as players and coaches, in a logic of “flash-interview” or even press conference, João Pinheiro found it difficult to answer, recalling experiences in other countries that “did not go well”, fearing a decontextualization of the judges’ explanations.

The 34-year-old referee from the Braga Football Association recalled, in this regard, the fact that “more and more there is talk of communications between the video referee [VAR] and the referee are public, as is already the case in rugby”, believing that this will happen in the “very near future”.

Started in 2017 in Portugal, VAR has “clearly” improved sporting truth, believes the Barcelos referee. “Only those who are very unfair and not at all honest think that VAR hasn’t made things better. We had clear situations on the pitch that the referee couldn’t see because they were difficult games. Perfection is not and will never be, because he is a man, and he will not cease to be a man, what he watches in VAR”, he stressed.

João Pinheiro recognized the “fundamental role” of the new tool, but underlined the difficulty of exercising it. “Being VAR is not easy because we enter this line of intervention of whether a mistake is clear and obvious, or not. For 50 people this mistake is clear and obvious, for another 50 it is not. This is the great difficulty with VAR, because it is made for clear and obvious mistakes and not, so to speak, for the best decisions,” he said.

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