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Referee urges Fifa to "get tough" with Turkey

Swiss players had to duck objects thrown by furious Turkish fans after Wednesday's game

(Keystone)

Retired Swiss referee Urs Meier tells swissinfo he expects Fifa to crack down on Turkey after Wednesday's World Cup qualifying game.

Switzerland booked their place in the 2006 World Cup, but celebrations were marred by scuffles after the game that led to the injury of at least one Swiss player.

Turkish fans were particularly disappointed after their side failed to qualify for next year's tournament in Germany, throwing objects onto the pitch and at members of the Swiss team.

The players were also given a torrid time by local supporters upon their arrival in Istanbul. They were harassed by Turkish officials who took their time before letting them leave the airport.

Fifa, football's world governing body, announced on Thursday that it would consider banning Turkey from the 2010 World Cup as punishment for the incidents.

Meier, who retired from refereeing domestic, European club and international matches last year, was one of the most respected arbiters in professional football.

He says there is no excuse for what happened in Istanbul.

swissinfo: Are you surprised about what happened after the match?

Urs Meier: I'm a little bit surprised at the Turkish officials, because they knew very well that observers from Fifa were there and that something could happen after the game. Sometimes you do have problems after matches... but they knew that there were international delegates in the dressing rooms and elsewhere, so I'm really surprised.

swissinfo: What sort of disciplinary action would you expect Fifa to take?

U.M.: Fifa has to come down really hard and hand out a tough penalty to the Turkish Football Association and to the people who were involved in the incidents. They should certainly consider suspending Turkey from international games and think about imposing financial penalties.

I refereed a lot in Turkey but the supporters there were never like the fans I saw on Wednesday evening at the match against Switzerland. The fans have to accept that their team did not qualify for the World Cup. It is part of the spirit of fair play that you deal with the fact that you don't always win. The Turkish fans did not send out a good message to the world.

swissinfo: Turning to events on the pitch, how do you judge the referee's performance?

U.M.: Well, I think it was a fair game on the field. It was a tough match, of course, because it was a World Cup qualifier. But I think it was fair from the moment the whistle was blown right up to the last second. The referee did an excellent job. The players accepted his decisions, and that is really important.

swissinfo: Looking ahead, how would you rate Switzerland's chances in Germany next year?

U.M.: Switzerland have more experience than they did going into Euro 2004 and the players have really grown up. Their main goal should be the 2008 European Championships... but I think it's possible for them to reach the second round in the World Cup and perhaps even further than that. They really are a good team who are more than just a bunch of individuals.

swissinfo: The draw for the World Cup takes place next month. Which teams would you like to see Switzerland drawn against?

U.M.: I hope that Switzerland are in the same group as Germany and that they will get to play some European nations, because this would give them some valuable experience ahead of Euro 2008. Of course it would also be interesting for Switzerland to be with teams from South America. It's always a highlight when you end up in the same group as Brazil or Argentina.

swissinfo-interview: Ramsey Zarifeh

In brief

Despite an illustrious career as one of the world's most respected arbiters of the game, Urs Meier will probably go down in the history books as the man who invoked the wrath of the English.

His decision to disallow a headed goal by Sol Campbell in the closing minutes of England's Euro 2004 quarter-final against host nation Portugal made him a scapegoat in the eyes of many irate England fans for their country's exit from the tournament.

Portugal went on to defeat England 6-5 on penalties, after the two sides were deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of extra time.

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