Our kid gets booked


Bobby Charlton (right) has finally received his first booking in international football - 32 years after the infamously bad-tempered World Cup game against Argentina. FIFA revealed yesterday, hours before the England v Argentina match, that Charlton was booked for dissent in the Wembley quarter-final in 1966.

Charlton, a World Cup winner that year, was unaware he had been cautioned as the match dissolved into rows and linguistic confusion. It got so bad on the pitch that the FIFA match official is said to have thought up the now familiar yellow and red card system he while stopped at traffic lights after the game.

The FIFA spokesman, Keith Cooper, said Charlton had inquired about his possible booking during a FIFA conference on fair play last autumn. The only caution he had previously been aware of in his career was caused by a misunderstanding with a referee over the timing of a free-kick in an English club game.

"We went into the FIFA archive and found the match report showing that Bobby had indeed been booked, although he hadn't realised it at the time," said Cooper, noting that brother Jack Charlton's name also went into referee Rudolf Kreitlein's book.

"There was terrible confusion between the German referee and the Argentinian and English players. People didn't speak each other's languages in those days. I think Bobby was trying to play the peacemaker and his intervention was misunderstood."

The game was held up for eight minutes and police came on to the Wembley turf as the Argentinian captain Antonio Rattin refused to leave the field after being sent off in the first half for repeatedly arguing with Kreitlein.

But July 23rd, 196,6 has gone down in World Cup history for positive reasons, too. The FIFA account has it that Ken Aston, the English FIFA official on duty that day, who also came on to the pitch to try to persuade Rattin to leave, came up with the idea for red and yellow cards as he was driving home from Wembley.

Aston realised a lot of misunderstandings were caused by referees not being able to communicate with players who spoke different languages. While sitting in his car at a traffic light it came to him that the red and yellow signals for stop and caution were international symbols that could be adapted for football. And so an inescapable image of global soccer was born, with the cards used at the next World Cup, in Mexico in 1970.