by Noel Draper
Referees, as we all know, are blind and, according to most supporters, bastards. Usually when they wear black. They also, according to most supporters, don’t know what they are doing. Managers also are prone to blaming most things on the referee, accusing them of all sorts of things from being too soft, too friendly, too fat to keep up with play and too inconsistent. Such is a referee’s lot.
I would imagine that Mr Graham Poll had thought that he had heard all of the levels of abuse that could be thrown at him during his long career until he made one bad decision in a World Cup game in 2006. He stupidly managed to book Croatian player Josip Simunic three times in the same game before handing him a red card. Obviously all manner of abuse was thrown at him from all levels of the game but one comment stands head and shoulders above the rest and it was made by one Herbert Prohaska.
Don’t say “who” like that. Herbert is very famous in Austria, honest. You want proof? Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
At the time of the World Cup, Herbert was making his living as a pundit on Austrian television. An ideal choice considering his football background. His early career was founded as a creative midfielder for Austria Vienna during the 70’s in which he won four league titles and three Austrian cups. With recognition at international level a big move was on the cards and Herbert joined Inter Milan before switching two years later to Roma where he won the Italian league. He finished his playing career back at Austria Vienna and found himself in management for four years winning two leagues and two cups with his home team.
Maybe it was because of this record that he became the Austrian manager in 1993, or it might have been because the previous manager had managed to lose against the Faroe Islands, but with his help Austria qualified at the top of their group for the 1998 World Cup. Unfortunately two draws and a last game loss to Italy saw them being eliminated in the first round. Herbert carried on as the Austrian boss for another year before a 9-0 loss to Spain, with a young Raul scoring four goals, forced his resignation.
In 2004, Herbert was voted Austrian footballer of the century which added to his award the year before of the most outstanding Austrian footballer of the last 50 years.
There, proof. A sort of Austrian Kevin Keegan (especially as he had curly hair when he was younger) but without the recognition outside his own country.
So what I hear you cry, what is the point of this nonsense? Well dear friends I shall tell you, I shall get back to the point of this inane ramble which is the comment that Herbert Prohaska, the most famous Austrian that you have never heard of, made after watching the Croatia versus Australia match in which Mr Graham Poll brandished three yellow cards at the same player.
He blamed Mr Poll’s decision making on the fact that he was an alcoholic and was still hungover from the previous nights boozing. He did this live on Austrian television. He did it with a straight face. He was being serious. Watch and learn Hansen and Shearer because that is how national sporting legends cum pundits should behave. Disgracefully.