Referees do not need the help of television sets, video replays or any other modern gadgets to help them make decisions. That is the view of Brazil's Jose Roberto Wright, who has been voted the world's best by the World Referees Federation, but is probably better known as the man who made Paul Gascoigne cry in the 1990 World Cup semi-final.
Wright, who describes Gascoigne as a "superb" player but also claims he is "difficult", believes that any electronic innovation could make football mechanical. And when that happens, football will stop being a passion, he warns. Wright is opposed to any changes in the rules of the game which he describes as "practically perfect" but he welcomes the disciplinary measures that FIFA took before the 1990 World Cup, which forced colleague Michel Vautrot of France into premature retirement.
As is natural for someone who referees in South American football, 46-year-old Wright has been involved in plenty of controversy since he began his career in 1974. His most difficult match was a Libertadores tie between Jorge Wilsterman of Bolivia and Olimpia of Paraguay in Cochambamba. Wright sent off five Bolivian players and in doing so provoked a crowd disturbance. "There was an awful confusion, the game didn't finish and it began the 90th Bolivian revolution," he said. He also has been at the centre of controversy in his native country. Everyone in Rio remembers his decision not to award Bangu a penalty in the last minute of a championship final against Fluminense, and he handled a Vasco/Flamengo derby wearing a hidden microphone that relayed his conversations with players to the watching audience.
But no matter how many controversies Wright is involved in, he does not want video help. "I am strongly against," he says. "Firstly, I have always said the error of a referee is a thermometer of the passion of football.
“If the referee gets everything 100 per cent right in a game, nobody will say anything. But when he makes a mistake, a player scores with a hand, or he wrongly gives a penalty, or does not give one, this mistake is a motive for argument that keeps football on the boil. The moment football becomes mechanical; it will stop being a passion.
"So I always say that, principally in the Latin countries, the supporter wants his team to win in injury time, in an offside position, with a handball, because he can make fun of the other team. He wants the most irregular happening possible.
"The second point is that most football matches involve amateurs on not always the best of pitches, so when there is a demand of technology to remove any doubts, football will have to be played on two levels - the level of those who can have videos and the level of those who can't ."
Wright claims the answer for referees is to be equal to TV. "Before I went to Italy, a television director asked me what I expected. I said I hoped to be better than television because it's the biggest observer of the referee. All his mistakes will be shown.
"When TV shows you made a mistake, you feel fed up but it's the one you made because you did not see."
Wright is opposed to virtually any changes in the rules, but he wants those rules to be imposed more rigorously. He welcomes FIFA's attempts to clamp down on violent play and professional fouls during the World Cup. Where FIFA went wrong, he believes, was in introducing the new directives on the eve of the competition.
"These measures, which are extremely important, should have been introduced earlier to give the referees time to get used to them," he says. Wright is adamantly against FIFA proposal to impose an age limit on referees at the next World Cup.
"This is a mistake because the most important thing in a referee is experience, and you should choose, independent of age, the referee who combines experience with physical fitness.
"If the limit for referees in 1994 is 45, the majority of today's top men will not be able to take part, and there will be a risk of inexperienced referees.
"Some who were removed because they were over 50 could have continued because they had experience and fitness - Abraham Klein of Israel, Bob Valentine of Scotland, Antonio Garrido of Portugal, for example.
"There should not be an age limit but there should be a more severe physical assessment. Some referees are only 35 but can't run."
One change Wright would like is for referees to be allowed to turn professional. "In football everyone earns money - the organisations, the players, the advertisers, the press ... so why not the referee?"
Wright describes himself as "disciplinarian" but says he enjoys refereeing matches with temperamental players, and that he can nearly always tell when a player is feigning a foul. "You have to double your attention and in 95 per cent or more of the cases you can discern when the player is faking, but in some cases you can be fooled.
"Rarely do I send off a temperamental type of player. But you have to be clever with them, otherwise ...”
That led to Diego Maradona, and Wright said: "I have been refereeing his matches since the beginning of his career in 1979. He is not difficult to referee. He is a player who suffers a lot. He gets picked out.
"But Gascoigne, an excellent player, can be a little bit difficult. During the World Cup semi-final, he came up to me and said 'You never smile', trying to win over the referee by talking. But it did not work -and I had to give him a card because he was arguing.
"Rudi Voeller attempts to trick the referee. He throws himself to the ground. He tried twice in the England-Germany game and I told him 'Don't try it because I won't allow it.' He stopped, and concentrated on playing football.
"The referee has to be prepared for this sort of thing. We have a player here, Tupazinho of Corinthians. If he is fouled ten times in a game, eight are fakes. He is very cunning.
"But it's the malicious, nasty player I don't like - the one who stamps, the one who spits, who gives a punch, an elbow in the face.”This sort of player, for me, should be suspended for a month and made to pay a very high fine."
Wright referees up to 80 domestic games a year, plus Libertadores matches and internationals. He dedicates most morning to physical training, teaches PE at a secondary school and a university, and is a director of a tourism company. As for the "Top Ref" award, he says: "It's very gratifying, for two reasons.
”Firstly, the prize itself is a big honour. Secondly, because it was a year in which there was an opportunity for me to show a style of refereeing which has always been the same since the start of my career. I have not altered my characteristics since my first professional game."
This article originally appeared in the April 1991 edition of World Soccer Magazine. You can subscribe for a ridiculously low sum by clicking here.