When I was 13, I had a German language teacher with a squeeky voice no one listened to and no one was afraid of. Even quiet law abiding pupils misbehaved and got sent off like the rest of us. We didn't seem to care about the consequences - being sent off meant going to the pricipal to get a punishment - we were just being stupid. Valentin Ivanov is like that German teacher and the Dutch and Portugese players behaved like schoolchildren. Of course the players are to blame and they should be ashamed of themselves, but what about the referee? Is Ivanov a bad teacher with a squeeky voice?
It started in the second minute when Dutch midfielder Van Bommel got booked for kicking from behind. Not a very mean kick, but against the rules and Ivanov was right (in his way). Everyone was warned. Then Dutch defender Khalid Bouhlarouz opened up Christian Ronaldo's thigh with his spikes and the Portuguese forgot about the rules and the consequences, their star player had to be avenged.
A staggering SIXTEEN yellow and FOUR red cards were shown by teacher Ivanov while the players ran amok. No one seemed to listen to the referee, no one seemed to care about the next match in the World Cup Finals. Costinha got sent away for a hands-ball, Deco for a fairly minor offence and so did Van Bronckhorst, important players, busy fighting their little wars against themselves, the referee or who ever came their way.
It was sly old fox Louis Figo who finally got Bouhlarouz. Figo, who didn't stand a chance against the fast (and reckless) Dutch defender, pretended getting hit in his face and fell to the ground screaming. Luckily a doctor saved him from certain death by putting a bag of ice against his cheek. Bouhlarouz was told to leave. The Dutch didn't agree with Ivanov's decision and now they had an axe to grind. You'd think there was a more than serious vendetta going on, a fight that wouldn't just stop after the match with dire consequences for coming matches between the two countries, until German television showed a shot of three banned players (Boulahrouz, van Bronckhorst and Deco, the latter two team mates in Barcelona) sitting together and having a chat. These guys are not schoolchildren after all, but professional players.
There was a goal by Maniche and Portuguese coach Scolari thought ahead by substituting Figo so at least he'd have one important player left for the next match. Unlike Scolari, Dutch coach Van Basten seemed to care less about the future, he could have taken off Bouhlarouz earlier and added an extra striker, the Dutch should have kept concentrating on the match instead of pulling their hair. They should have known they were up against a team that plays the game on many levels and only one of them is with a ball. A style that needs another kind of referee, one who isn't fooled, who knows how to be lenient and severe and one who can talk to the players as an adult. A referee they are afraid of.