«The referee has lost the commitment with the error; if he fails he knows that they will notify him »

Iturralde González monitors the refereeing work as a commentator and will also do so in the World Cup / borja acute

“We accept that presidents, players, coaches are wrong, but not the referee; he is the only one who always has to be perfect »

Eduardo Iturralde González cuts off when he speaks. Sharp tongue, but with arguments. The former international referee and now a commentator for the Ser, who will soon travel to the World Cup in Qatar, reflects in a telephone conversation with EL CORREO about the VAR, the use of technology and refereeing work, increasingly conditioned by what comes from VOR rooms. This 55-year-old Bilbao maintains that the referees “have lost their commitment to error” because they know that if they fail “they will notify them.” They work with a net, and he prefers to climb vertical walls “without ropes”. With the recorder running, the interview takes place on its own.

– It is the fifth season with the VAR. Are you still your strong supporter or do you already have more doubts?

– Everything that comes to improve football is welcome. What technology can’t do is improve appreciation plays. That is why there is more controversy, because the plays are interpretative. The VAR must be used for the subject of the goals, the offside. pure math. White or black. But everything related to interpretation has brought more discussion and controversy. It seems you have to get everything right. Do you know why the controversy exists? Because the spirit of VAR has been broken.

– What do you mean?

– The VAR came for a clear, obvious and manifest error. Maradona’s hand in the World Cup, Henry’s that qualifies France against Ireland, Tasotti’s elbow to Luis Enrique. They are plays that will continue to be talked about 50 years later. What happened? The media pressure has been able to with the arbitration committees to open more the VAR. They have opened the fan so much that we are getting into nonsense. There are penalties that the referees have to see and if they don’t see them it’s because of the game position. It is not a matter of getting into everything. It seems that the VAR referee is more important than the one on the field. This happens because the committees have not been able to preserve the spirit of the VAR due to media pressure.

– Technology has come to make football fairer. Has it or does it add more confusion?

– The fairest thing amuses me. The concept always goes with arbitration. Is football fairer when PSG spends billions of euros and other teams can’t? Is football fairer with sheikhs coming in and spending loads of money that other clubs can’t spend? Why does justice only have to be arbitration? Why do we want the only one who always has to get it right is the referee? We accept rulings from presidents, players, coaches, but not from the referee. That’s not fair. In football, everyone can be imperfect, except the referee. Another thing: the big problem with arbitration that no VAR is going to fix is ​​that the rules are based on interpretation.

– What solution do you have?

– They tell you that a grab can be sustained, that they have to hold you. And what is sustained in time? How long do you have to hold him? Another thing: a small blow to the forward that is thrown, camouflages it and it seems that they have killed him. All of that is interpretable! Not all contact is a penalty. If most of the rules are interpretable, then VAR will not end the controversy.

– Is there a remedy?

– Back to the essence. Leave the VAR for the objective. Hands, aggressions, what is white or black. Something that 200 people from different teams will agree on. The VAR has come so that all of them coincide, not for nonsense. Have you seen what penalties are called with the VAR?

– Many of them difficult to understand.

– And we have accepted it! And worst of all: the world of football has accepted it. They say ‘how good that VAR has come in’. No, I rebel against that. It is not philosophy.

– So what fails is the regulation.

– No. The regulation is interpreted. The referees are the puppies of the regulation. We are interpreting things and that gives you the experience and knowledge of the regulations themselves. One sees sentences from judges, which sometimes take up to five or six months to dictate. When they come out, opinions are divided. We are talking about people who have prepared their whole lives for it and even so there is controversy. How can there not be in arbitration!

“The referee does not legislate”

– The other day he defended that the penalty given at the Bernabéu, that of Asensio, was. Five years later, the players and coaches themselves still do not know what is a hand and what is not. Shouldn’t everything be simpler?

– It’s simple. The one who does not understand it is the one who feels harmed. Asensio publishes on the networks that his action is a “definition of no hand” explained at the beginning of the season. And Michel – Girona coach – says that the CTA (Technical Referees Committee) explained to them that it is a clear hand.

– Then?

– There is a teacher and students who understand it differently. Who fails? The teacher? Esteban (ex-goalkeeper) appeared on the ‘Radio Estadio’ program and said that at the beginning of the year it was reported that hands like Asensio’s were going to be whistled. Wasn’t Asensio at the talk? Or is he lying because he feels wronged?

– I insist: Should the regulation be retouched?

– The whole world of football should participate in it. The referee does not legislate. He is given the laws and he interprets them. Let’s see, what does a policeman think when he catches a thief stealing a radio cassette from a car with a value of less than 400 euros that an hour later he is on the street? Well, if he steals again, he’ll arrest him again. When you ask him about it he will tell you that it is the law. He has to keep doing his job. The ‘fault’ is the law.

– And it would have to be changed.

– But the football world wants this debate. Have you done anything to change it? No. So? Referees have to stick to the rules. If I had any power, at the end of the season I would send all the penalties to the players and coaches so that they could assess which are the penalties. There are 20 squads, about 500 footballers, and if 400-odd say that one is pitable then let’s agree that it is.

– Neither do the players help. From the second one they try to trick the referee.

– It is very clear. Now with the VAR they look for contact and simulate. They have improved the simulation. With any blow they throw their hands to their heads or faces. The trap of the world of football. They should learn rugby. They stick, get up and continue. In football they go around 40 times and make the croquette. The more croquettes they make, the less they have. They try to cheat.

– What do you think when you hear the teams complain about refereeing?

– It’s all smoke. Complaining about arbitration is the easiest. You don’t talk about football, about how badly you have planned the game, about what you have failed. You talk about a situation. You do not accept the referee’s error as any other. A president fails with the signings, the coach with the tactics, the player with the completion… It is something inherent to the world of football and it is accepted. Why is the referee’s error not accepted once and for all? Why is it the only element of football whose error is not accepted?

– Are referees in danger of becoming too comfortable and leaning too much on technology? There have been cases in which the VAR has corrected the referee up to four times and on important issues such as penalties or goals.

– Says Collina himself (member of the UEFA Referees Committee). Referees must be taught to whistle as if there were no VAR. You are human and you whistle knowing that you have a network. You are more calm. The referee has lost the commitment with the error. He knows that if he fails, they will notify him. So you have that relaxation in the field. If you are going to climb the Gran Capitan and you do it with ropes, you know that the rope keeps you going. But if you free climb you know that if you’re not focused and you don’t do it very well, you’ll kill yourself. So when are you going to be more focused? When you climb without rope and net. It is what we did arbitrating. What was happening? That you had a commitment with the huge mistake. You had to put in 200,000 instincts to avoid the mistake. What happens now? Well, if there’s a penalty, they’ll let me know.

– If you could come back and referee a Champions League final, would you ask to do it with or without the VAR?

– The VAR would be only for the objective, if it is a goal or not, if it is offside or not, only for things that are not debatable. Everything else, without technology.

«All the rules have their spirit, they are set for a reason»

– A goalkeeper’s hand on the ball. The rival player arrives and pushes him into the net. It’s not a goal. Even the coaches themselves believe that it is a game set and should be worth it. Is football empty of content?

– All rules have their spirit. They stand for something. If you want to change them you have to know their spirit. An example: this rule of the hand on the ball is in place because a melee dispute is not the same as when it occurs with the goalkeeper on the ground. Someone could rip his arm off! Legislate to protect the player. If you know that he can contest the ball like that, then he could get on the plate. The disputes would be to the death. Rodrygo’s toe could be an exception, but it is ruled by the set of plays.

– Another example: a hard tackle, at the limit of the red, is sanctioned with a yellow. The same punishment applies to the player who lifts his shirt to honor someone’s memory. Don’t you think something is wrong?

– No. A warning is a warning. If you take off your shirt you have to take something off. You take out the yellow one because it’s not red. You can’t break the rules. Then orange, green or gray cards should be used for these situations.

– A technician says: «They have invented the penalty». They can drop four games. Good?

– If the sanction is typified, you apply it. If not, you break the rule. Many things in the regulation seem wrong to me, but you have to apply it. An example: Avoiding the goal with the hand is expulsion, right? Well, if you try to score with your hand it’s just a yellow. In the 80th minute, the player can risk scoring with his hand because he knows that he would see a yellow card. If it were red, he would still think so.


  • Edward Iturralde Gonzalez
    He is from Bilbao and he is 55 years old.

  • Profession
    Former referee and now radio and TV commentator

  • as a referee
    31 years of arbitration, 17 of them in the First Division. On September 3, 1995 he debuted in the League. He was a FIFA referee between 1998 and 2011. At the time of his retirement, he was the referee with the most expulsions in the League (118).


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