Skip to Content

Spectator sport

Rugby referee Craig Joubert is just the man to sort out Syria

So what if that Twickenham penalty was a mistake. If he can make the English feel sorry for the Scots he can do anything

29 October 2015

9:00 AM

29 October 2015

9:00 AM

Not since Walter Palmer, a cudddly Minnesota dentist, put down his drill and vanished off the face of the earth having made sure that Cecil the Lion took a crossbow bolt for the team, has there been a disappearance quite like it. I refer of course to Craig Joubert, the hapless Durban-born referee last seen leaving scorch marks in the Twickenham turf as he sprinted for safety after mistakenly (as it turns out) awarding the Australians a penalty in the last minute of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Scotland.

Now Joubert has been chucked under the bus by World Rugby, the governing body, who agree that he shouldn’t have given the penalty. But poor guy: who hasn’t made a mistake? Just ask Franz Beckenbauer. Anyway, spare a thought for Craig, a man who spent his teenage years volunteering to referee and who was only doing his best. He’s actually a damn good referee. You assume he legged it to the nearest departure lounge and is probably even now roaming the veldt on a hiking holiday. Keeping an eye out for anyone wearing a kilt and holding a crossbow.

Personally, I think he did a service to world peace, being the first person alive or dead to make the English feel sorry for the Scots. Quite an achievement. Like that master of snoot Martin Amis making you vaguely warm to Jeremy Corbyn because he didn’t get very good A-levels. Anyway, think what Joubert could do on assignment to Jerusalem, say, or Raqqah. A trip to Oslo can’t be far off.


It’s a good job he did give that penalty. Had he not I’d have fancied those brave and brilliant Scots to beat the Argies and reach the final. Which would have meant blasted ‘Flower of Scotland’, a modern and violently anti-English folk song, cascading down the Wimbledon stands for hours. Too much to bear.

Rugby is full of bish-bash, but every-one gets on in the end. Not so all sports. Some compelling film from the drivers’ room after last weekend’s US Grand Prix in Austin shows Lewis Hamilton calm himself before picking up the second-place cap and flinging it to Nico Rosberg. You’re not sure whether it’s ‘banter’ or gloating. There’s no doubt which way Rosberg takes it as he hurls the cap back, hard. It is all conducted in ice-cold silence. They’re team-mates of course. Tasty.

I can’t imagine that the world of high-speed superbike racing is high on the list of many readers’ sporting priorities. But there’s never a dull moment. If you think Lewis and Nico can get a bit hissy, check out the MotoGP Grand Prix in Malaysia. Defending champion Valentino Rossi and the Spaniard Marc Marquez go wheel to wheel lap after lap, before the Italian pulls back his leg and kicks his rival off his bike. I think he deserved it. Rossi is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), and Marquez wants to take his place. The Italian isn’t willing to concede just yet. Riveting stuff, but don’t try it at home.

Rossi’s working methods might be welcome in the current Chelsea managerial set-up. What on earth is going on? Has Jose gone bonkers? This ‘siege mentality’ stuff doesn’t work if it’s you on your own. There seems to be so much pride and ego on the line with Mourinho that failure, when it finally happens, detonates a megaton of destructive fission. And then it all has to be explained away — bad referees, shocking doctors, the wrong kind of balls — because failure can’t possibly be admitted. The largely awestruck British media has often said that when José did or said something stupid it was part of a broader cunning plan, normally to ‘deflect attention’. That myth has now been ripped bare. Quite often, when Mourinho does or says something stupid, it’s just because he’s being very stupid. Starting with that repellent -victimisation of Eva Carneiro.


Show comments
Close