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Referee Peter O’Leary talks after World Cup death threats

Referee Peter O’Leary wasn’t safe after he refereed the World Cup match Nigeria – Bosnia Herzegovina in Brazil. After months of silence he talked with the NZ Herald about the situation. 2014 became a top year because of the selection for the World Cup, but he also became Bosnian public enemy number one

What happened during the World Cup?

“That’s an obvious error,” O’Leary says in The NZ Herald. “The assistant referee at the time said it was offside, put his flag up and I said, ‘Thank you very much, offside’. I didn’t make the call. However, as the referee, I’m in charge. I’m responsible and I carry the can.”

23.000 fans signed a petition to stop O’Leary from refereeing. Some wanted the Kiwi referee to die. Another one wrote: “If this petition doesn’t do anything, I’m gonna go up to his doorsteps at (midnight) and burn him and his house”, cited by the Daily Mail.

“I had a long international career and I certainly never experienced something like that, and I don’t believe many other referees have either. That was a very exceptional thing.” Referee Peter O’Leary never got the bullets in his mail box. The most difficult thing for him was that he stayed in Brazil, while is his wife and two sons (5 and 7) were at home.

Referee Peter O'Leary

O’Leary with Nigerian goalie

Before the World Cup Fifa released interviews with all the referees and Peter O’Leary told that his goal was to be the ‘invisible man’, so “the players can be the stars“. Unfortunately for him it didn’t go that way. Not only the goal was wrongly disallowed, also a photo appeared of the referee hugging the Nigerian goalie. (I don’t owe the rights of that pic, so check it here)

Referee Peter O’Leary explains how that happened. “The Nigerian goalkeeper is a character … with a sunny disposition. At the end of our game he had the ball, I went and got the ball off him. He said congratulations (for being part in the World Cup programme, Jan), put his arm around me and I put my arm around him. While we were doing that, the fourth official said something in my ear and that made me laugh.”

The incident caused Fifa officials to examine O’Leary’s cellphone and laptop for 24 hours to probe match-fixing. “They said: we don’t have a problem with you”

O’Leary’s conclusion about this year: “It has been tough. It makes it difficult, but also football’s just a game and it’s important to remember that.”


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