Brazil-Colombia referee forced to explain himself outside airport bathroom

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Few Brazil or Colombia fans will feel much sympathy for Carlos Velasco Carballo, the referee who presided over yesterday’s quarterfinal, but when you hear about English media and soccer fans waiting for him outside a restroom in Rio de Janeiro’s airport, the story around his Friday decisions takes on a much stranger feel. After all, how many of us have to worry about being hounded about our job performance when we’re getting off an airplane?

It’s a loaded comparison considering Carballo knows his job is in the public eye, but it’s still a bit insane that the guy couldn’t go to the bathroom after getting off his flight without having to explain what happened in a soccer game. Yet there he was, according to The Observer, having to explain himself to a Colombia fan who wanted more fouls called on Brazil.

Carballo presided over Brazil’s 2-1 win over Colombia, a victory that put the Selecao into the World Cup semifinals amid discontent about his officiating. Colombia fans bemoaned the cynical nature of Brazil’s fouls on star midfielder James Rodriguez, while the host nation was left heart-broken after a late-match challenge from Juan Camilo Zuñiga broke one of Neymar’s vertebra, ending the stand-out attacker’s tournament.

English media who happened to be on the same Saturday flight from Fortaleza were also able to get some time with CarballoFrom The Guardian’s website:

One Colombian fan waited for him outside the toilets … The Spanish official appeased her by agreeing to a photograph.

A smiling Carballo then explained to the Guardian and Observer’s chief football writer, Daniel Taylor, why he could not talk in detail about his performance … “Unfortunately I cannot talk about it. I would like to but the rules do not allow it … I can talk to you about Manchester United or Chelsea or José Mourinho or anything else, but not this, thank you.”

Am I wrong for thinking it’s over-the-line to pursue this man outside an airport bathroom? If not, at what point is he allowed to go on with his life? Is there a window in which it’s socially acceptable to confront Carballo about his performance? And if so, why isn’t that window shorter?

Yesterday’s game was important, but it was ultimately just a game, no matter what emotions those 90 minutes inspire after the final whistle.

For the media, there is a certain journalist responsibility to pursue stories, but that same press should have known what the answer would be. Regardless, this isn’t hard news. We’re not pursuing national security secrets, here.

Do we really want to be feeding into an environment where lingering outside restrooms for match officials could possibly be rewarded? I thought, as a civilization, we’d agreed that TMZ was gross?

If there’s a huge societal demand for answers, the media can work through FIFA to amend rules that prevent him from talking about his decisions. That’s assuming that societal demand should even be rewarded.

But at the point we’re taking these professional concerns into Carballo’s private life, we’ve gone too far. This is a slippery slope, but one that’s led to some ugly incidents in more malicious hands.