During the 2018 World Cup in Russia there was no English referee taking part in the matches, a strange fact that would be difficult to predict. This was all Mark Clattenburg’s “fault”: yes, precisely the 43-year-old referee who was born in our Consett on March 13, 1975 and who in February of last year left the Premier League to become Saudi Arabia’s new head of referees while continuing to work in their local League.

“It’s my fault. Two years ago, I started the programme, but when Fifa announced convocations for Under-20s and the Under-17s last season, I quit, and there was no time to change the situation”, the internationally renowned referee who in 2016 was also awarded the best referee in the world prize admitted in an interview.
On the other hand, Clattenburg refereed the World Cup for unrecognised states, which was also held last summer in Great Britain. “I was delighted to be an ambassador for the tournament: I like to work with less fortunate countries that cannot enter FIFA because of their status. There are some that I’ve never heard of, but it was really a great opportunity”.
Mark Clattenburg has been an international referee since 2006 and was designated for the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 European Super Cup, the 2016 Champions League final played in Milan between Real and Atletico Madrid, and the 2016 Euro final between Portugal and France.

Clattenburg was never a trivial character even when he publicly stated his alcohol-related problems because of the excessive tension he felt when refereeing in the Premier League. “It was a relief to get away from the Premier League. The pressures inside your own country are sometimes more difficult than high-profile international games. It can affect your family. All the social media things that are written, it affects people who know you. I drank lots of beer to handle the pressure after Premier League matches: if the match was a nightmare, I’d go home and open the fridge. My wife knew: she’d know my mood on the phone as soon as I got out of the stadium.”

Even in Saudi Arabia there has been much discussion about one of his decisions. While he was refereeing a match between Al Faiha and Al Fateh and only a few minutes remained before the end of the match, Mouazin’s calls from a mosque next to the stadium were clearly heard and invited to prayer. Immediately, Clattenburg stopped the game to allow the players to listen to the calls for prayer by the Mouazin, a gesture that was particularly appreciated not only by the players, but also by those who were attending the game and later also on social media. After two minutes, the game resumed and ended regularly.
Mark Clattenburg is an internationally renowned personality, so much that there are rumours about the Chinese Football Federation pushing to bring him into their national championship, but for the moment, the forty-year-old from Consett seems to be doing fine in Saudi Arabia.

Image courtesy of Aodanbiswashughes under creative commons licence 

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