Swiss referee Urs Meier has told swissinfo of his happiness at avoiding any controversy during Tuesday's World Cup semi-final match between Germany and South Korea.This content was published on June 25, 2002 - 18:55
The game, which will be Meier's last at World Cup level, was seen by many as a crucial test for refereeing in general following claims of bias towards the Koreans in previous matches.
Spanish and Italian media have even propounded conspiracy theories to explain their national sides' apparently unfair treatment in their meetings with the host team.
But an error-free performance by Meier, coupled with a 1-0 win for Germany now appears to have restored faith in the men in black, much to the delight of Meier.
"I'm very happy that I can now go home with my head high," Meier told swissinfo after the match. "There really was a lot of pressure on me and my assistants going into the game and I'm happy we could put in a performance which was good for football as a whole and refereeing in particular."
Pointing out that referees are only human and as susceptible to mistakes as players or coaches, Meier said he and his colleagues had been hurt by all the talk of conspiracy.
"I think the criticism was far too heavy," Meier insisted. "I think all the referees here have been trying their best, and it didn't do us any good to be reading those kind of things in the newspapers. Sometimes the referees are unlucky and make mistakes - but that's normal."
Praise from Blatter
The administrators of world football certainly seemed relieved after watching Tuesday's game with FIFA president and fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter describing Meier's performance as "excellent".
"No-one could complain about that performance," agreed UEFA president Lennart Johansson, "it was very good."
From the giddy heights and mind-boggling pressures of the World Cup semi-finals, Meier can now contemplate a return to the Swiss domestic league, although he is first looking forward to a month's break.
The 43-year-old from canton Aargau will not be available for selection for the 2006 World Cup because of FIFA age regulations, but he hopes to be back in action for his planned international swansong at the European Championships in two years' time.
by Mark Ledsom with agencies
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