Prior to kickoff at the start of the second half of Brazil – Croatia on Thursday, the cameras showed Luka Modrić chatting with Yuichi Nishimura. Or at least, it looked as though the Croatian midfielder and the Japanese referee were chatting. Having played with Tottenham before moving to Real Madrid, Modrić can almost certainly get by in English and Spanish, as well as his native Croatian tongue.
However, according to teammate Vedran Corluka, the referee wasn’t speaking English – or any other international language. The centerback said:
We were quite simply shocked with the fact that he communicated with us in Japanese all the time. It is just hard to fathom that an official who speaks no English or any other international language was allowed to be in charge of the World Cup’s opening match.
It’s hard to believe Nishimura is unable to communicate in English. He officiated two World Cup matches in South Africa in 2010, and also took charge of the Club World Cup later in the year. As his two World Cup matches each involved a sending-off of players (Nicolás Lodeiro of Uruguay and Felipe Melo of Brazil) it would seem that someone would’ve cottoned on once player protestations were involved.
In fact, viewing FIFA’s “Meet the Referees” video series, it’s clear that Nishimura can, in fact, speak English. The pauses and hesitation, however, suggest that perhaps it may not be easy for him to do so, or at least not when tensions are high.
It may be a valid complaint that FIFA should address. However, FIFA being FIFA, it’s also unlikely that they’ll change their ways.