Facebook death threats for soccer referee

After Wednesday's big semifinal between Chelsea and Barcelona doesn't go Chelsea's way, fans turn to Facebook to make death threats against the Norwegian referee.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

I understand that not everyone loves soccer.

However, Wednesday saw one of the most important events in the annual soccer calendar--the UEFA Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Barcelona.

Barcelona prevailed with an excellent goal in the very dying seconds. Which, unfortunately, has resulted in many Chelsea fans turning to Facebook and other media in order to suggest that the Norwegian referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, should be doing some dying too.

In their somewhat warped view, he refused to award four penalties to Chelsea. And he should, therefore, suffer the consequences.

Here is a sample from just one of the many anti-Ovrebo Facebook groups that have sprung up. This one is called "I Hate Tom Ovrebo."

One poster to the group, Stephen Yang of Wisconsin writes: "I'm in. Let's track him down and hang him."

Perhaps you might think that these are merely the emotional words of a mournful, scornful fan.

Didier Drogba, a player known for his diving as much as his complaining. CC Ben Sutherland/Flickr

However, Norwegian police are not so sure. An Oslo police spokesman told the London Evening Standard: "We are watching closely what is being posted on the Internet. Anything we believe would threaten his personal safety will be taken seriously."

One group, according to the Standard, that has already perhaps been monitored closely, had the endearing name "Kill Tom Henning Ovrebo." Its stated aim: "We group dedicated to the hunt for (and brutal murdering of) the second-leg champions league ref of Chelsea vs Barcelona."

I could not find this group Thursday (although I did find one called "Tom Ovrebo Must Die," but there are a couple of issues that make this nasty outpouring of hate more than usually disturbing.

In 2005, Chelsea also believed it had been treated unfortunately in a game against Barcelona, this time by Swedish referee Andres Frisk. Frisk was subjected to a level of threat that caused him to cease being a referee very shortly afterward.

At the time he said: "I have been subjected to things that I couldn't even imagine...I don't know if I even dare let my kids go to the post office."

However, this time, the Chelsea players themselves cannot escape a charge that they helped fuel this disgraceful reaction.

The Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba, known for wailing, diving, whining antics that overshadow any talent he might have, behaved like an adolescent with a distorted view of reality at the end of the game. He raged at a TV camera that the referee had been a "f****** disgrace." His eyes bulged as if sanity had left him and moved to another time zone.

Equally, Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack looked at one point as if he was about to either assault the official or eat him.

These players lost control to a degree that few can ever claim to have witnessed. Perhaps the most pathetic aspect of their behavior is that Ovrebo's worst decision by far was to red card Barcelona's Eric Abidal when the fact is he didn't touch Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka at all.

However, it will be interesting to see how quickly Facebook, which yesterday admitted to Technically Incorrect that it is hard-pressed to monitor all the hate spewed in its pages, can deal with the alleged threats.

As one poster, Adam Webster, to the same "I Hate Tom Ovrebo" group wrote: "Ok guys...i hate him and his descisions (sic) as much as you...but i think we should all stop with the death threats. Yes, it's clear he cheated, but i think we should calm down on that note before authorities get involved."

It will be interesting to see in the coming days which authorities do get involved and what their sanctions might be. One can only hope they are serious sanctions.