Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Poles to weave Webb into tangled finale

HOWARD WEBB probably doesn't look back on last year's European Championships with too many fond memories.

The English whistler was demonised by millions of Poles after awarding a controversial stoppage-time penalty for a shirt-pull on an Austrian player in the tournament's opening game, which finished 1-1 and ultimately killed off Poland's quarter-final hopes.

The Poles were unforgiving, with prime minister Donald Tusk admitting he wanted to kill Webb. One headline in the tabloids called him "an English thief" while there were even reports of death threats.

However, Mr Webb could be on the verge of an amazing reconciliation as he has reportedly been asked to ref this year's Polish Cup final.

The news has generated plenty of publicity for Poland's cup competition, which has seen dwindling attendances over the years. The head of the company which sponsors the cup admitted that "time heals wounds and this is a good time for a reconciliation".

But it's not just about gaining publicity. Poland has had a major problem with corruption and match-fixing over the years and a current probe has led to 192 arrests of referees, players, coaches and club officials. Hence the desire to get a big, respected name for the final.

England's top ref might want to give this one the red card.