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14 years on: What happened to the Chelsea vs Barcelona referee?

Joshua Nair

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14 years on: What happened to the Chelsea vs Barcelona referee?

Today marks the 14th anniversary of one of the most controversial Champions League games in history, as on the 6th of May 2009, Chelsea and Barcelona faced off in a pivotal semi-final second leg.

The night began well for Chelsea, who were aiming to make back-to-back Champions League finals against Premier League rivals Manchester United.

The Blues took the lead after at the nine minute mark, as Michael Essien scored a spectacular first-time volley to put Chelsea 1-0 up.

This was followed by a series of penalty appeals by Chelsea players that were nonchalantly waved off by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

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Barcelona defender Eric Abidal was sent off in the 65th minute, making Barcelona's task even more difficult, as Chelsea knew that they needed just one more goal to kill the tie, as if Barcelona were to score, they would win on away goals.

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Ovrebo then waved away yet another penalty appeal after a clear handball in the box by Gerard Pique, and everyone associated with Chelsea was left furious.

Then came stoppage time, and Chelsea fans' worst nightmares came true as Andres Iniesta dispatched one of the most famous goals in the history of the competition from a Lionel Messi pass.

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There was still time for the Norwegian referee to wave off one last penalty appeal when Michael Ballack's shot was blocked by the arm of Samuel Eto'o, with the iconic clip of Ballack chasing Ovrebo down the pitch while yelling in his face following this.

The scenes that followed this game are some of the most famous in recent history, as the red mist came down on the Chelsea players.

Didier Drogba's famous outburst still echoes in the heads of Chelsea fans today, as he screamed down a TV camera: “It’s a disgrace! It’s a f****** disgrace!”

Drogba and Bosingwa were handed bans for their comments on the referee, with Chelsea being handed a fine due to the 'improper conduct of their players and the throwing of missiles by their supporters,'

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Chelsea's manager at the time, Guus Hiddink also said that his team has been 'robbed' and called the result an 'injustice'.

Barcelona emerged victorious and went on to win the 2009 Champions League. (Credit: PA Images)
Barcelona emerged victorious and went on to win the 2009 Champions League. (Credit: PA Images)

Tom Henning Ovrebo spoke to Panenka magazine 10 years on from the incident saying: “I wish I had the help of the VAR that day.

“After the first half, my assistants and I felt that we had control. At the end of the match, however, I did not have that feeling. When I got to the dressing room I thought: ‘Okay, Tom Henning, this has not been your best night’.”

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He also added: “I must admit that inside I was boiling. It was in the dressing room that I realised how controversial everything had been.

“In the space of two hours, I went from being a fairly respected referee to becoming the biggest fool in international football.

“(The death threats) came more from the frustration of not winning that match and my performance in it, than from the real desire to kill me and my family.”

Ovrebo spoke more recently to the Daily Mail, as last week he revealed his thoughts on his dismissal of so many of Chelsea's penalty appeals.

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"I don't think the Chelsea supporters are correct when they claim four of five penalties, but I think everybody that knows football and the laws of the game knows there should have been a penalty given.

"That happens, especially before VAR. Sometimes you miss a penalty, sometimes you miss a red card or a crucial decision. And I think everybody that knows football knows there should have been a penalty.

"They can speculate themselves which ones should have been a penalty. I will not give you a correct answer on that because I don't have the correct answer, I just have my perception of it."

The Norwegian had also previously admitted that this game in particular contributed towards the end of his reputation as a top-level referee.

“When the Champions League continued in August of 2009, I didn’t get the matches at the same standard again,” he told Goal.

“Step-by-step, I got good matches and, in 2010, we got Bayern Munich versus Fiorentina. But, unfortunately, we missed a clear offside.

“After that match I didn’t get any more in the Champions League but I continued to referee in the national league in Norway.

“Unfortunately, I got injured in 2012. I tried to make a comeback but I had to stop in 2013.”

Ovrebo went on to become a psychologist after studying the subject at University, and not works at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences.

Ovrebo still looks back fondly at his career despite all the abuse.

“My motto in my life is that ‘It is better to get bullied than for people to forget you’, so I think that the fans can continue bullying me if they want to; for me, that is no problem.”

Featured Image Credit: ITV/UEFA/Goal

Topics: Barcelona, Champions League, Chelsea, Football

Joshua Nair
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