Vignette 7: Crossing a different line

Gallin blows on his whistle and straightens his arm out to the side to signal the direct free-kick. Red Number Six responds by throwing both arms in the air and spinning round to face the referee. ‘What the ****, ref?’
‘What? I got that right, don’t you think?’ Gallin retorts with a pert smile. The player almost smiles back, momentarily forgetting he should be mimicking outrage at the decision against him. Of course, the home spectators protest as well but the short and barely audible chorus of opposition peters out as quickly as it had begun.
‘That’s a ****ing joke, innit, ref?’ Yells one slightly more committed observer from the touchline. Gallin allows himself a raised eyebrow and an inconspicuous sigh before once again signalling the free-kick.
IFAB Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct, Subsection 3 Disciplinary Action (Sending-off Offence) ‘using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures’. It was a statute embossed on the mind of every referee, easily and perfectly declaimed whenever the need arose, and yet in practice Gallin found his mandate considerably more knotty and ill-defined. The fact is he felt not offended, insulted nor abused, at least not anymore. He’d become habituated, not indifferent to such aggressive questioning, even abuse, more generally, but certainly conditioned by it here on the pitch where frustrations were understandably many.
‘This guy’s a ****ing clown,’ the same player continued his assault, more muted now and at a distance but his words carried on the biting winter breeze.
Gallin’s ears *****. His eyes narrow and his jaw clamps tighter. A line had been crossed. ‘Number Six,’ he beckons the player over while reaching into his pocket. ‘A word, please.’

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A&H International