Earwig on tight shorts, erotic refs and the women who loved Mr. King

The fact that no Scottish referees were invited to take their place amongst FIFA’s elite at the World Cup will surely have the SFA doing some serious soul searching and head scratching regarding how standards could be improved. Now that suits and brown brogues are set to make a comeback on the sevco team bus, perhaps personal attire is one way we could help our refs smarten up their performances on the pitch.

A quick canvas of my devoted readers Sid and Doris Bonkers came up with the idea of extremely tight shorts. “You must remember Dutch FIFA referee Frans Derks?” said Doris. “Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau awarded for his services to Dutch football in 2009?”

I had to confess my ignorance on that score but a quick search threw up some interesting stuff. Apparently Frans here was much appreciated by Dutch players back in the day for not stopping matches too often and for not brandishing too many yellow cards. Frans himself quipped that he had no place in his shorts for cards.

Apart from being a ref Frans was a crisis manager at a cleaning company, a quizzmaster and a singer. He even recorded a single with the Dutch midfield maestro Wim van Hanagem (below). My Dutch isn’t great but I believe the title, “Ik Ben Ik, Jij bent Jij”, translates as I Am Me, You Are You.” It has one five star review on rateyourmusic.com. My guess is it’s from Wim.

I await my readers’ suggestions for musical collaborations between sevco players and their pet refs.
Was there a dark side to Frans, I hear you ask, or was he simply a lad o’ many perts in a pair of scrotum crushing shorts? Well, he did claim that he never refereed a match won by a German team, a promise that he made to his late father.

Such was his colourful life that it would almost make a good movie. Italians know good movie material when they see it. Which is why I reckon Fellini, Passolini and Visconti would all have run a mile from the very idea. That said, there has been a ref-themed turkey inflicted on the world,

Translated into English the title means ‘The Referee’, of course, although it was released in this country as ‘Playing The Field’. It bills itself as ‘a hilarious and sexy comedy,’ which is a polite way of saying it’s a soft porn flick.

It’s main selling point on its release in this country was Joan Collins (or perhaps that should be main selling points – fnar fnar) who plays the part of Elena Sperani, a mysanthropic misfit with a fetish for short-sighted control freaks (I made that bit up) who jumps into bed at the drop of a can of shaving cream with the referee of the title (Lando Buzzanco).

In case you’re doubting the character’s sanity – if not her morals – this comes about because the ref has “unusual methods”. Of refereeing, that is, which leads to him gaining celebrity status after he is invited to do a top match. To trim the fat off an already wafer-thin plot, “His mad passion for soccer and women leads him to the brink of madness.”

Is there maybe an idea for a remake set against the thrilling world of Scottish football: a referee with ‘unusual methods’ is rocketed to stardom on the back of media exposure and then beds a host of admiring groupies. I’ve even mocked up the poster (below).

In true Boogie Nights Dirk Diggler style, surely ‘Willie Collum’ is a great stage name for whoever is chosen to play the part of the ref?

The real film is actually based on the life of the famous Italian referee Concetto Lo Bello, whose career between 1944 and 1974 saw him offiiciate a record number of matches in Serie A. He was also a regular UEFA appointee and there is a Celtic connection here. He was the whistler in charge of the 1970 European Cup final between Celtic and Feyenoord. Watch Celtic’s goal from that match again and you’ll see him running across Feyenoord’s defensive wall – in a seductive and erotic way – distracting the Dutch players long enough for Tommy Gemmell to fire home the opening goal from a free kick.

Not too sure if Concetto was indeed bedding female admirers during his whistling career but after 30 years as a match official he finally retired and went into Italian politics and was elected as an MP for the Christian Democrats, where he went on to hold office as Minister for Sport and, the somewhat bizarrely titled, Minister for Drought. He eventually retired to his native Sicily, home of the Mafia, where Lo Bello became the Mayor of Syracuse. Even by Italian standards he didn’t last long in that job.

No chance of getting involved in anything dodgy with a CV like that, is there?

Howard King might have been interested in getting a part in a soft porn flick. The former Premiership referee was last heard of when he was caught by the police while masturbating in a park in Wales. Gordon Thompson takes up the story of this colourful character in his book ‘The Man in Black’:

The sober, happily married and affable image of the British referee is not always to be believed. There’s always one greedy beggar who finds it impossible to resist the good things in life. Like free sex, for example. In 1995, a year after he had retired, the former FIFA and Premiership referee Howard King went to the News of the World with the story that for years he had been accepting prostitutes and other free ‘gifts’ from foreign clubs attempting to bribe him into rigging high profile European matches. Not that King was ever foolish enough to give in to the demands of football’s pimps. He just bedded the girls and to hell with the consequence, his reasoning being that the clubs could hardly report him if he failed to show them favouritism on the pitch without incriminating themselves; if they got the hump, as it were, it didn’t really matter either: he might be given the cold shoulder should he return, but it was a small price to pay.

King’s first conquest came when he was in Belgium to referee a UEFA Cup tie. An ex-FIFA official chaperoned him over the border to a Dutch brothel where he received his first ‘gift’. Soon after he was sampling the hospitality of clubs dotted all over the continent: Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Germany. He became like a dog straining on a leash whenever the chance to get away on European duty arose.

Above: “The women who loved Mr King” is the headline in this Portuguese newspaper. Portugal was one of Howard’s favourite countries.

On one bizarre occasion King had sex with a Czech girl who had seen him refereeing a Sparta Prague game on TV. Later that same night the two met an after-match party where the girl demanded he make love to her in his official uniform.

(At which point, for some reason the image of Frans Derks trying to shoehorn himself out of his refereeing equivalent of a pair of budgie smugglers popped into my head. Now back to Howard…)

King loved every minute of it, as he did during his many visits to Portugal – the country, he said, with the best prostitutes in Europe. During his 44 matches on the continent – and they were all major European games – King reckoned to have slept with at least 15 women. He also insists he was by no means the only referee involved, stating that he and his colleagues used to while away the dead time before a match comparing notes on the various sexual favours offered by different clubs.

But King categorically denied that any British clubs were involved, saying, “It went on everywhere else… but it was hard enough to get a cup of tea out of them.”

And on that note, I wish you all a very happy new year.

Toodloo the Noo

NTV 285

Includes paper copy and PDF.


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