United fans see red over Cakir's dubious call
Manchester United's Nani shows his disbelief after receiving a red card from referee Cuneyt Cakir during the Champions League match at Old Trafford. photograph: martin rickett/pa
Hold the back page: The news was fairly shocking for those who had blithely dismissed conspiracy theories after the Champions League ding dong between Manchester United and Real Madrid on Tuesday night: the Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, who brandished a card of a reddish hue in Nani’s direction . . . follows Real Madrid on Twitter. And, get this, Cristiano Ronaldo too.
This was somewhat breathlessly revealed, each story an exclusive, by a number of English outlets in the aftermath of Nanigate, although what wasn’t so widely reported was the equally damning revelation that Cakir also follows the Spanish tourist board on Twitter. And their tweets are, surprisingly enough, in Spanish, which suggests Cakir is suspiciously familiar with the language and, it seems, has a grá – or desire – for holidaying in Spain.
Grassy knoll stuff. By now, Nani must have been stroking his chin.
Come Thursday afternoon Cakir’s previously largely unnoticed account had amassed 12,502 followers, many of them sending him wishes that you couldn’t really describe as warm.
“You are a disgrace to football action you think you can get rid of a candidate are a good team,” read one of the few tweets that can actually be repeated. “But you are fishing to world football frustrations on behaviour basic animal football.”
In fairness, that Manchester United supporter was Indonesian, and he was tweeting a Turkish referee in English about his alleged fondness for a Spanish team, so no chuckling here at that level of multilingual globalness.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail followed Cakir and his fellow officials – “they looked just like any other group of businessmen apart from the give-away Uefa lapel badges” – from their Manchester hotel to the airport on Wednesday morning, kind of like they were convicts on the run. (“WHICH THEY WERE,” Paddy Crerand might have said to himself).
“Things did turn a little sour when I approached them and asked for their views on their handling of the game,” wrote the reporter. “Cakir himself just stared at me stony-faced and shook his head while their security detail – man of advanced years in a blue anorak – decided to get a little heavy.”
Happily, no one died, the man in the blue (Manchester City fan?) anorak sparing the Daily Mail reporter, who, alas, never got answers to the five questions he posed: “What did you make of your performance? Do you regret your decision to send Nani off? What did Mr Ferguson say to you at full-time? Are you looking forward to coming back to Old Trafford? Will you expect a Christmas card from Rio Ferdinand?”
Back on Twitter, Sky News’s Richard Williams announced that a Uefa spokesman had told him Cuneyt Cakir’s account was “fake”, which either (a) was unlikely or (b) someone out there has actually been running a fake account for a Turkish referee. If so, you can only say: “Huh?”
That didn’t stop the abuse pouring in, mind, some of it even wishing a plane crash on the fella. Stuff like that.
Elsewhere, a number of MUTV (official in-house Manchester United TV) regulars were lambasting Roy Keane for suggesting that Cakir had actually got the Nani decision right – which called to mind Private Eye editor Ian Hislop once tentatively suggesting: “Um, maybe Lee Harvey Oswald DID do it.”
“Let me tell you something,” said Paddy Crerand. “I’ve played for Manchester United, I’ve played in a European Cup final, and Roy didn’t. The referee was wrong.”
Well, there you have it.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old United fan from Nottinghamshire was apologising for his actions in the immediate aftermath of the sending off. He – ready for this? – dialled 999 demanding Cakir be arrested.
“While it may be amusing,” said Chief Inspector Ted Antill of Nottinghamshire Police, “it illustrates the sort of insincere calls we have to deal with on a daily basis.”
Foolish? Certainly. Insincere? Hardly. And once the 18-year-old learned of those Cakir’s Twitter follows he most probably dialled 999 again. You know, it’s official: the world’s gone mad. Completely, like.