Regarded as one of the best referees in the world, Sweden's Anders Frisk, with 118 international matches under his belt, stood as good a chance as anybody of taking charge of the Final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. However, he officially announced his retirement on Monday in a letter to FIFA.
42-year-old Mr Frisk has arrived at this decision due to the numerous threats he has received since the Champions League quarter-final first leg between Barcelona and Chelsea (2-1). During this game, he dismissed the Chelsea striker Didier Drogba for two yellow card offences.
Despite the fact that Chelsea went on to qualify via the second leg (4-2), a minority of so-called supporters of the London club have continued to harass the Swedish official and to physically threaten members of his family. "I am disappointed to have to quit my post because of the attitude of people who have no respect for human values and for FIFA's "my game is fair play" slogan," Mr Frisk explained in his letter to FIFA.
In comments made in the Swedish press, Mr Frisk, while revealing that the threats had actually worsened during the past week, insisted that "the last sixteen days have been the worst of my career as a football referee."
Nowhere in the letter did Mr Frisk allude to the many comments made by Chelsea's Portuguese coach José Mourinho, who strongly condemned the alleged visit made by Barcelona's coach Frank Rijkaard to the referee's room at half time. "I can't understand how a second yellow card, and a deserved one at that, can have such consequences and how a friendly handshake with the home team's coach can provoke such a reaction," declared the bewildered Swedish referee at the start of the debate generated by Mourinho's aspersions.
His decision has caused great sadness among the football family and among the referees in particular. The president of UEFA's refereeing committee, Volker Roth, was not mincing his words. "People like Mourinho are the enemies of football," fumed the German, who believes that the Chelsea coach's allegedly confrontational attitude is directly responsible for the aggression of the club's fans.
The FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter, also expressed his disappointment at the criticism endured by Mr Frisk. "I am shocked by the recent verbal attacks aimed at referees. It is often this irrational behaviour that triggers the anger of supporters. I call upon all parties concerned to show respect for referees and for fair play," he declared. Going further still, the President emphasised that "those who attack referees are directly attacking the game of football that is their livelihood."
Coming on the back of the head injury he suffered last September when a missile was thrown from the stands during Roma's home Champions League tie with Dynamo Kiev, Mr Frisk clearly feels that enough is enough: "at the end of the day, football is only a game. The safety of my family must come first."