Antonio Mateu Lahoz: An Emotional Farewell to an Iconic Referee
In an emotionally charged event, Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz officiated his final La Liga match, ending a career that spanned over two decades. The match, a mid-table clash between Mallorca and Rayo Vallecano, marked the end of the 2022/23 season and a significant chapter in Lahoz's life.
As the final whistle blew, the pitch transformed into a scene of heartfelt tributes. A guard of honour was formed by both teams, applauding Lahoz for his years of service to the sport. The spectators joined in, their applause echoing around the stadium. The emotional weight of the moment was too much for Lahoz, who broke down in tears as he reached his family, including his two sons, waiting for him just off the pitch.
Antonio Mateu Lahoz, 46, has been a professional referee since 1999 and has been a fixture in the Spanish top flight since 2008. He gained international notoriety during the quarter-final of the 2022 Qatar World Cup between Argentina and Netherlands, where he brandished a record 18 yellow cards. This event, which saw Netherlands' Denzel Dumfries booked even after the match had concluded, was a testament to Lahoz's unique style of officiating.
His approach to refereeing, often considered controversial and unpopular among Spanish football fans, has nonetheless made him a memorable figure in the sport. Despite the criticism, Lahoz's talent for the role was undeniable. His career highlights include officiating at numerous World Cups and international tournaments, and he was even selected to referee the 2021 Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City.
In his final match, Lahoz surprised many by not showing a single card, a departure from his usual style. While his career in the Spanish league has come to an end, it remains to be seen whether Lahoz will choose to officiate elsewhere. LaLiga's decision to stand him down for the 2023/24 campaign does not necessarily mark the end of his career in football.
Before his career as a referee, Lahoz was a P.E. teacher, a profession he has hinted at returning to. As he steps away from the pitch, the world of football will remember Antonio Mateu Lahoz as a figure who brought his unique style and undeniable passion to the game.