Drunken Czech Soccer Ref Imposes Reign of Error

By Will Godfrey 10/25/11

Championship game descends into farce after mass sendings-off by a referee barely able to stay on his feet.

Fidra with an already-dirty sweater Photo via

Soccer players from the Czech Republic's Tynec nad Labem and Jestrabi Lhota teams, who were psyching themselves up for a county championship game on Saturday, were aghast to discover that the ref running their crucial clash was stumbling drunk—and there was nothing they could do about it. Referee Tomas Fidra arrived in a taxi having celebrated his birthday with the help of some of the renowned local beers. Witnesses said that he "smelled like a brewery." Nevertheless, the game kicked off and the inebriated official lurched through it, making increasingly erratic decisions while falling to the ground so frequently that he ended up with a "dirty sweater," covered in marks from the white lines painted on the field. The problem for the players was that competition rules make no provision for cases of drunken refs—"If we refused to play, we would have been threatened with a fine and points deduction," explained Jestrabi Lhota official Karel Dusek. Matters escalated after 32 minutes, when a Jestrabi Lhota player politely queried a decision and was promptly shown a red card, expelling him from the game. Fidra then sent off two other Jestrabi Lhota players for no reason, leaving the team down to eight men versus the usual 11. At this point, with both teams still afraid to leave the pitch and the score tied at 1-1, the Tynec players sportingly stood around in the middle of the field, kicking the ball between themselves without attacking their sadly depleted opponents. The crowd applauded. Play was finally suspended when cops arrived and Fidra was persuaded to take a breathalyzer test, although he could legitimately have refused. His reported blood alcohol reading of 1.94—more than 24 times the US driving limit—suggests either that his survival was a miracle, or that the test was no more accurate than some of his calls. In any case, regional soccer authorities declared the game void in the spirit of fair play and rescheduled it. Fidra could be suspended beyond his next birthday.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.