For many, the 0-0 friendly tie between Germany and South Africa in 1995 is quickly forgotten. But for former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher, the game has a very special meaning.
Here, responsible for the goalless draw in Johannesburg, lived the best moment of his career.
“Before the game,” said the veteran official, “the great man himself, the icon of the 20th century, fell and shook hands with himself and called me Dermot.” 101 great goals in an exclusive interview. “Without a doubt, if Nelson Mandela shook your hand and said ‘Dermott, welcome to my country,’ this would never get better.”
It’s not easy to be a judge, and moments like this are rare amid the torrent of abuse he receives from fans who don’t agree with his decisions or watch them make a mistake.
“You only remember the decisions that go against you, you don’t remember the ones that work for you,” Gallagher warns. “I’m not saying it’s balancing because that’s not the way to judge, the way to judge is trying to get everything right, definitely the big decisions.”
The abuse isn’t limited to those watching either, and players often have a lot to say over the course of 90 minutes. And in his 15 years in charge of the Premier League, one moment stands out above all others.
Gallagher revealed: “I judged a guy named Thomas Rybka when he first came to West Ham, and he said to himself frankly that when he came to West Ham he wasn’t in the best place, he was having a hard time.”
“And I think he was sent off in his first match, came back and I sent him out either in his next match or the match after that. He really gave me a load of stick and abuse when I kicked him out. I had no fear of the refereeing players but I felt some fear the next time we met.”
However, these fears were, in the end, so far off the mark, as Repka was quick to atone for his sins before the confrontation.
“He came down from the tunnel and said, ‘I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have spoken to you this way. I was in a bad situation and it won’t happen again,’” continued the Dublin-born official.
“He was so sincere in telling me that, I believed him honestly, and he was as good as gold in the next match. It just proves that anyone at the wrong time and wrong place can react in the wrong way.”
Rybka is one of many Premier League players with a reputation on the pitch, in this case for being a hard-liner, which earned him fame at Upton Park during his four and a half years in London.
There is concern across fan bases across the country that such a reputation could be seen as detrimental to players when they take over management, such as a striker believed to be prone to diving, or a midfielder believed to be quick-witted, which could affect the referee. A decision away from the objectivity of the incident.
And Gallagher recalls a meeting with fellow referees and a sports psychologist, where exactly this scenario was thrown at them.
And the Irishman revealed: “We were asked to describe what we see as a strong player, difficult to judge, and not too difficult to judge.”
And the physicist asked, ‘Well what are you doing with this player? [that is hard to referee]Another referee said, ‘I’m working hard to make sure this guy stops on the field of play, walk with him, flatter him, and connect with him. “
I actually said ‘why?’ Why do you have to work so hard with this player, when the nicest player on the field can get a yellow card for himself on his first tackle because he’s such a nice guy. You have to have a blank canvas, and until a player does something wrong, he is an angel.”
101 Dermot was also questioned about the use of video assistant referee technology, the idea of referees training with clubs and whether viewers should listen to officials, all of which will be available in the second part of the interview, later in the week.