Ovidiu Hategan and Virgil van Dijk: an emotional moment

Referee Ovidiu Hategan and Virgil van Dijk embraced each other after The Netherlands won their Nations League group. If you look a little closer you can see the emotion on the face of the referee. Dutch and Liverpool captain Van Dijk consoles him, as the referee seems upset. “That man broke down, stood with tears in his eyes because I think he had just lost his mother”, he says in an interview with Fox Sports. “I wished him strength and said that he had whistled well. It’s a small thing, but maybe it helps him.”

Ovidiu Hategan and Virgil van Dijk
Ovidiu Hategan and Virgil van Dijk. Photo: tv screenshot shared on Twitter

When (not) to referee

This situation got me thinking, because it’s something you rarely see. This is what players can do for you as a referee. Giving that bit of comfort when you need to.

But it also good for referees to realise when (not) to referee. That is a decision every referee has to take for him- or herself. Ovidiu Hategan officated a good game, was focused and fully capable of refereeing that game.

A few weeks ago my grandfather died. I felt sad, but still comfortable to referee a game in the weekend a few days later. It gives me something positive during that week of mourning. If I would have been distracted during work constantly or would have started crying out of the blue while making breakfast or so, then I would not have done the game.

Players deserve a fit referee

It reminds me of a new paragraph in the KNVB referee handbook. “Football players have the right to have a fit (assistant) referee“, it says. “When you’re injured, we expect you not to referee or assist”.

For me that refers to mental fitness as well. You need to be able to focus on the game, like Hategan. The first point in the story 7 tips to stay focused for 90 minutes is: Avoid negative thoughts and feelings. Focus is what you need, because then you’ll be able to make the right calls. Then you can officate a good game. As KNVB puts it. “You take the risk that you deliver a performance lower than normal.”

Keep that in mind when you make your own call when (not) to officiate.

Ovidiu Hategan and Virgil van Dijk


  • Peter van der Leek

    I once received some threats about a game on Sunday when I had to be assistant referee on Saturday. The threats were on Thursday and than stopped. I checked my phone during half time of the match on Saturday, only to see that the threats were back and had gotten worse (my children were involved).
    I spoke about it with the referee and other assistant and decided to continue the game, partly because we didn’t have a 4th official so the game would have been stopped without me.
    I didn’t feel good the 2nd half and felt like my focus was influenced. My coach, who was there that day, didn’t see any change compared to the 1st half, luckily…

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Thanks for sharing your story, but sorry to hear about the incident and threaths. Did your FA take action? And did the threaths stop soon?

  • Tracey

    I made the mistake of refereeing 10 days after my husband died. I needed to go out and be with people but refereeing was not the way to do it. I was not mentally strong enough.
    I think your point about mental strength is a very valid one.

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