Esfandiar Baharmast saw something that 16 camera’s couldn’t see, but it took a while before players, fans and journalists realised it. The US referees shares his thoughts on a historical World Cup game.
After decades on the pitch, Esfandiar Baharmast, reached the World Cup. Norway played against Brazil. A place in the next round is at stake. “I had this mission that this game goes well”, says Baharmast on Fifa TV. “Not only for me, but also for the new generation of referees that were coming in the United States.”
A nice advantage led to the 1-0 lead for the Brazilian team in the 77th minute. Tension rises. The equaliser was scored, but that was not enough. Norway really needed to win the game.
Sail on the sailboat
In the 88th minute the decisive moment of the game was made, but not many of the reporters believed it was the right decision. A Norwegian cross entered the penalty from the left wing. “And immediately, from my instinct as a player, I knew where the ball was going to land”, says Baharmast. “From my view I see clearly that Junior Baiano is grabbing Tore André Flo at the back of is shirt. He gives it a big yank.” But not everybody has seen it. “But it looked like a sail on the sailboat.”
Match commisioner Vautrot said from his point of view it was a penalty kick, but not everybody was so sure about that. On the first video footage and replays nobody could see Baiano holding the shirt. “Vautrot told me his phone has been ringing since I called that penalty. Reporters were calling that it only looked like a small bump.”
Despite that, Baharmast was 100% for sure. “I don’t call a small push in the 88th minute.” But the French newspapers were talking about an ‘imaginary penalty’.
“It was a penalty”
Early in the morning Baharmast’s photo rang. His wife. She found pictures and a video that proved there was a big yank on from the Brazilian defender. And news newspaper Coupe du Monde wrote one day later: “Il y avait penalty” – It was a penalty.
Your images turns a 180 degrees then, he says. “From a referee that saw something totally wrong, to one of the best referees that saw somehting that 16 camera’s could not see.” He also adds something to the discussion on the VAR. “For many years people wanted the video referee to change the decision of the referee if he made a mistake. Here’s a referee who was in a better position than 16 camera’s. What would have happend if the replay would have said “no penalty” and then two days later evidence appears it is a penalty.”
I’d love you to show an embedded video, but FIFA has blocked that option. So go to youtube for a video interview with Baharmast. But the incident itself is in the clip below from 1m45.