There’s been intense media coverage this morning following Manchester United’s elimination from the Champions League last night. Most of the coverage focuses on the role of the Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, who made the decision to send Portuguese winger Nani off, effectively determining the tie. United would have been confident of wrapping up the match in the final half hour. The referees call however destroyed the dreams of Manchester United fans as they go yet another year without a European trophy.
The fans booed the referee heavily after the match and numerous Manchester United players angrily confronted the official after the final whistle. Whether it was a sending off or not is a hot topic of debate with literally thousands of tweets on the debate.
To some fans, it was the right call whilst for others, the decision was a shocking one that in the end decided the match.
Whatever the truth about the decision, its interesting to follow the history of the Turkish referee who sent off Nani, a Mr Cuneyt Cakir and his extraordinary record against British sides.
Cakir rose through the refereeing ranks at a young age and started officiating in the passionate Turkish league at the age of 24. His respect in the refereeing world has risen dramatically in the last couple of years following his Champions League debut in 2010. That match finished 1-1 with both goals penalties as Cakir became immediately noticed throughout Europe for his officiating style.
It’s a theme that has always been there with Cakir and he has an interesting record in big matches. He made a big call last season in sending Mario Balotelli off against Dynamo Kiev as City crashed out of the Europa League in humiliating fashion.
Also last season, Cakir was the referee who sent off John Terry in that now infamous match between Chelsea and Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Just a few weeks after that game, Cakir sent off another Chelsea defender, this time Gary Cahill in the Club World Cup final against Brazilian side Corinthians.
His trigger happy nature with red cards against British teams continued during the Euro 2012 Championships where Cakir angered the whole of Ireland by sending off Keith Andrews as the Irish crashed out to Italy.
In the Euro 2012 semi final clash between Spain and Portugal, Cakir booked an incredible nine players, further cementing his reputation as a no-nonsense referee.
Cakir was also the referee that sent off Steven Gerrard during England’s poor 1-1 draw at home to the Ukraine at Wembley. He also handed out 9 yellow cards during the game.
Given his history, it is perhaps no surprise that Cakir chose to send Nani off for the high foot against Arbeloa and is just the latest act of his tough officiating stance, though his record against British sides in particular is interesting.
With that in mind, perhaps English clubs need to be wary of Cakir the next time he is in charge of a tie.