Referee John Langenus bio

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the first ever WC final. Captains Jose Nasazzi and Manuel Ferreira and Langenus wearing a suit and tie.
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John (aka Jan or Jean) Langenus was the referee of the final of the first World Cup in 1930. He took charge of six matches in 3 World Cup finals and many other international matches. He was a journalist and a writer and a secretary to a provincial governor. Langenus died in 1952.

Perhaps the most important ref in his day, Langenus officiated around 85 international matches in times when football slowly turned professional and large stadiums were built. It was also a time of belligerency between countries like France and Italy, Germany and the rest etc, but their national teams still competed. Langenus took charge of those international matches between 1927 and 1939, often fair matches even when the two countries were nearing war.

Many matches Langenus took charge of were firsts of something. First match in the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, first continental ref in Scotland and in Ireland (cup final), first ever match England lost away (against Spain: 4-3) and of course the first World Cup final.

John Langenus was a player in his youth, but a not very good one. When he decided to become a referee, he taught himself the rules by reading a leaflet about it and went to the examinations. He was questioned by real English referees and Langenus passed only the second time. According to Langenus his first ever match as a referee was around 1906.
His first years were not good ones and more than once he doubted he was good enough and wanted to quit when he was hit in the stomach or when people threw bricks at him. He once forgot to keep time and noticed he had also forgotten to wind his watch.
During WWI he took charge of matches in (neutral) Holland and in the early 20's he started writing articles.
When he was designated to officiate in a match for the 1920 Olympic Games, he refused to go because the match was in Brussels and not in Antwerp, where the Games were being held. He argued that all matches should be played in the Olympic town, (his native) Antwerp. This stand cost him matches for a while.

Langenus, when abroad to referee, always took the opportunity to see something of the countries he visited. For instance in his book Fluitend door de wereld (whistling though the world), written in 1942 when there was no more international football, nor travelling at leisure.
He writes about matches as well as what he sees on his travels. He describes countries, cities and events for the people who, in those days, hadn't seen places like Rome or Berlin (or Montevideo, Buenos Aires) and would never have been on a plane.
He writes about travelling for 20 hours on a train to get to a match, about sitting in a plane and seeing an engine drop off and plunge into the sea underneath and about meeting famous people like Mussolini (who gave him an autographed picture of himself), the kings of Sweden, Spain, Belgium, (then) Prince George and even the Pope.

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