We spoke with Ángel Jiménez, the arbiter of the peace

No meeting of Tercera (D5) or Preferente (D6) takes place this weekend in the Balearic Islands. The local referees said stop following a series of violent events. Ángel Jiménez Bonillo has been working for Málaga for several years to fight against this type of incident. His weapons: the VAR of supporters and the VAR of honesty. Here, no video, but a threesome “worm, animar, respect” (see, support, respect) designed for the sole purpose of bringing tranquility and respect to the grounds. Explanations from the one and only arbiter of the peace.

Can you introduce yourself ?
I am 44 years old and I am a teacher at Colegio Maravillas de Benalmádena. I started refereeing when I was 16, in 1994. I am known as “The Arbitro of La Paz” . An Andalusian media, Canal Sur, gave me this nickname in 2007 because in 2006 I started to stop matches when there were insults. I stopped at the slightest incident, and I had very good results. Today, I referee matches for young people, who are 16 years old or younger, and I am an ambassador for Plataforma 0:90 (zero violence for 90 minutes), an initiative of the municipality of Málaga.

“I was called a son of a bitch when my mother was there and it hurts more than the blows. »

A few years ago, you took a break from refereeing. Was it because of the incidents that you witnessed or suffered?
That was one of the reasons, yes. I did not accept violence and disrespect. The violence is physical, but also verbal. Unfortunately, insults are normalized in football. Before being the arbiter of the peace, being called a son of a bitch or an asshole was very common. I couldn’t even say how many times I heard that during a game. We must fight against all forms of violence. All. Otherwise, football cannot be an educational sport.

What is the most violent situation you have faced?
I have lived through very violent situations, I have already received a big punch. But the most painful situation I have known on a pitch was one day when we were involved in an accident while on the road to referee a game. A car was coming in front, we managed to dodge it, but it hit the vehicle behind us. It was horrible. We still refereed and at the end of the match, an angry spectator said that we should have died in the accident. I was also called a son of a bitch when my mother was there and it hurts more than the blows.

When did you think about setting up a particular protocol?
In 2006, one day a gentleman insulted me. I said to myself : “No, I have to do something. » I thought about it at halftime and before the second period, I warned the coaches and the delegate that at the next insult, I would leave. It is from there that I imagined this protocol. I speak with the public and the teams before each match: at the first insult, I stop the match. Second, it’s the police. On the third, it’s over. It never went that far. I called the police only four times. “Only” because if we compare with the figures of my colleagues, it is a great progress.

“Children can help me correct me if I’m wrong. I have seen several examples on the ground. Situations where I give a goal clearance and where a child tells me that he has touched the ball, and therefore that there is a corner for the opposing team. »

Before each match, you tell the players and the spectators that you are going to make mistakes, it’s quite original.
It is simply the truth, although not all referees say so. I say what everyone knows, that is to say that the referee will be wrong. I find it important for the reflection of the public, the players and the coaches. Errors are part of the game, you have to accept it and take it into account. With the Honesty VAR, kids can help correct me if I’m wrong. I have seen several examples on the ground. Situations where I give a goal clearance and where a child tells me that he has touched the ball, and therefore that there is a corner for the opposing team. It’s great, it’s better than cheating. Moreover, I have not complained about any insults in the stands in recent months, and this is the VAR of the supporters: “worm, animate, respect. »

So the arbiter of the peace has more authority than Pierluigi Collina?
(Laughs.) It’s a good question ! Pierluigi Collina was a magnificent referee, with a lot of authority and a lot of qualities. I don’t know if I have more authority, but I have more success with the public.

Your way of refereeing seems to reflect your job as a teacher.
Yes, my work as a teacher is important and I try to bring it into the sport. I believe that all people involved in sport with young people must also be educators. I want to be part of this process, to create an environment that helps children have fun and grow as people.

Have you presented this protocol to the authorities so that it can be implemented on a larger scale?
I presented it to the Andalusian federation since we referees are linked to a regional federation, according to each autonomous community. But they did not consider my proposal as appropriate. The federation already knows what I do, there have been a lot of reports, videos, articles… They know it works, but they don’t want to apply it.

“If the president spoke publicly about this protocol, it would be huge, it could encourage regional federations to take an interest in it. »

For what reasons ?
I would like to know ! Here in Andalusia, I was told that not all referees could do what I do, because not all of them express themselves the same way as me. I understand that, but there’s no need for everyone to do exactly what I’m doing. You just have to think of a protocol, which everyone will appropriate in their own way. I also told them in my proposal that my pre-game chat helps a lot to set up a good atmosphere. This speech can be given by a referee, but also by a coach, by a delegate or even by a supporter. Everyone is involved, everyone has a role to play in maintaining this positive and serene environment.

You also discussed this protocol with the president of the Spanish federation, Luis Rubiales. What came of it?
I met him one day in the Canary Islands. He told me : “What you are doing should be applied for all youth games, that’s very good. » I couldn’t continue talking with him because there were a lot of people. Now that was a private conversation, he didn’t make a public statement. The other problem is that the youth categories are not run by the Spanish federation, but by the federation of each community. If the president spoke publicly about this protocol, it would be huge, it could encourage the regional federations to take an interest in it and try to put it in place.

“Football is the most practiced and followed sport, it must be used to help young people grow into better people for the future. The goal is a better sport for a better society. »

This protocol is easily applicable at the amateur level, but could it be implemented in the professional world?
If you want it, yes. Of course, it’s easier in a youth game with fewer people. It’s also easier if you do it from an early age since in eight to ten years, things can change. This protocol could nevertheless apply for any match. There are loudspeakers, the message could be read by the captains of each team for example. It would be more difficult to take drastic measures in a professional match because there would be a lot of repercussions… But if there are major repercussions, the social debate is more important and it helps to raise awareness. What do we want? What should we never accept? These questions must be asked in a society. It is important to act against violence and in favor of the values ​​that we want to carry. Just as we cannot accept violence, we cannot applaud someone who cheats and misleads the referee. It feels like it’s part of the game and it’s a shame, we have to try to change that. We feel better if we do the right thing, and we need to teach children that we are happier when we behave well than when we behave badly.

How do you feel watching people applaud some of your pre-game speeches?
The only thing I need is respect. Afterwards, if there is applause, I accept it with pleasure. People sometimes thank me for what I do for the education of children and it is gratifying. My main objective is that young people have fun in a serene setting. Without respect, there is no distraction. The philosopher Seneca said that the reward for a good deed is to have done it. I’m happy because I know what I’m doing is positive.

How did you react when you saw Pau Gasol sharing one of your videos?
Oh my god… I couldn’t believe it. Pau Gasol is a reference, a person I admire as a basketball player but also as a human being for his values. The fact that he shares the video and says “that’s sports” , this is one of the things that brought me the most joy in this project. Football is the most practiced and followed sport, it must be used to help young people grow into better people for the future. The goal is a better sport for a better society.

Interview by Quentin Ballue

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