Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
SALVADOR, Brazil — Jurgen Klinsmann is usually full of smiles, comical quirks and giggles during press conferences. There was none of that on Monday when Klinsmann was asked about a particular topic.
That topic? FIFA’s appointment of the match official for Tuesday’s Round of 16 match.
Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi has been put in charge of Tuesday afternoon’s showdown at Arena Fonte Nova between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Belgium, and Klinsmann is none too thrilled about that decision for several reasons. Klinsmann isn’t fond of the idea that Haimoudi’s primary language is French like the Belgians speak. The U.S. head coach is also perturbed by the fact that Haimoudi is from the country that the Americans defeated with a dramatic last-gasp goal at the 2010 World Cup.
“Is it a good feeling? No,” said Klinsmann. “He’s coming from the same group with Belgium and Algeria — which deserves a huge compliment for going through to the next round — he’s able to speak French with their players on the field and not with us, and it’s the country that we beat in the last second in the last World Cup.
“Sometimes I don’t understand FIFA. It’s difficult, obviously, to choose the right referees for the right games. It’s always been tricky for FIFA, but it is what it is. We give him absolutely the benefit of the doubt, we respect the decision and hope he’s spot on in the game and hope that everything goes well.”
Haimoudi, 43, has officiated two other matches in the tournament in Brazil, and neither of those group stage games had any real controversial moments. He first reffed the Netherlands’ 3-2 victory against Australia and then Costa Rica’s scoreless draw with England.
The second Algerian to ever serve as a head ref in a World Cup, Haimoudi has kept his cards in his pockets for the most part. He booked Robin van Persie and Tim Cahill in the Netherlands-Australia bout and also issued yellow cards to Ross Barkley and Giancarlo Gonzalez in Costa Rica’s group-clinching tie.
All of that and the fact that he has experience officiating in three Africa Cup of Nations and last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup still hasn’t swayed Klinsmann from being a little wary of having Haimoudi as the main official of a game with such high stakes.
“We hope it’s not a concern,” said Klinsmann. “We know that he did already two games so far and he did them very well. We wish that he continues his refereeing the perfect way he’s done so far.”