The AFCON final involved a minor moment of controversy when referee Victor Gomes offered Mo Salah his whistle and cards after the Egyptian international disputed a call made in the game.
Discussing the incident, Keith Hackett insisted the official should have cautioned the Liverpool winger with a yellow card for his dissent instead of opting to act ‘bigger than the game’.
“Don’t offer the cards and the whistle. I think that’s a petulant arrogant act by the referee, completely not in the sphere of officiating.
“I’m really strong on this. I’m very disappointed with this referee. Ok, he’s a human being and he might have passion for the game but as a match official you have to be neutral and you have to apply the laws of the game.
“Have a quiet word, ok, that’s fine. But if he believes Salah is out of order, issue him with a yellow card.
“The referee here is operating here like he is bigger than the game, the game is about players.”
The Pharaohs went on to lose the trophy to Senegal via a penalty shootout, with the Reds’ No.11 missing out on an opportunity to take a spot-kick after Senegal capitalised on two misses from Carlos Queiroz’s men.
It’s an admittedly unique moment from the official in question and we can appreciate that there’s a fine line between demanding respect from the players and playing a too active role in a match.
Gomes arguably strayed just into the latter camp during the AFCON final and could have set a precedent with a card if necessary.
It’s a lesson for the referee to learn, though far from being the worst piece of officiating we’ve observed this season.