Henry handball ref picked for Finals

JOHANNESBURG: Swede Martin Hansson (pic), who was at the centre of France’s controversial World Cup qualification, was named on Friday among the 30 referees for the Finals in South Africa in June.

Hansson failed to spot Thierry Henry’s handball in the playoff second-leg against Ireland in Paris in November and was widely criticised after the incident led to the goal which allowed France to qualify.

He was however named after Friday’s meeting in Zurich of the refereeing committee of world football’s governing body FIFA.

Among the other officials appointed were Englishman Howard Webb and Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, who have also grabbed headlines over the last year.

Eight officials return from the 2006 Finals in Germany where the refereeing was roundly condemned after a spate of controversies.

It led to FIFA setting up a special referee’s assistance programme to better train top officials for the 2010 Finals.

Among those returning is Benito Archundia of Mexico, who handled the 2006 semi-final between Germany and Italy, and Italian Roberto Rosetti, who also officiated the Euro 2008 final in Vienna.

Norwegian Tom Henning Ovrebo, who turned down a raft of penalty appeals by Chelsea in last season’s Champions League semi-final second-leg against Barcelona, was overlooked.

The 30 referees are made up of 10 from Europe, six from South America, four from the Asian, African and Concacaf confederations and two from New Zealand.

Each official has his team of two assistants who have worked with him consistently over the last two years.

Only one of the two Swedish linesmen from the match between France and Ireland made the selection. Stefan Wittberg was included but Fredrik Nilsson missed out.

Busacca was suspended last year after giving a middle-finger salute to supporters chanting verbal abuse in a Swiss Cup game while Webb changed his mind over a penalty decision in last year’s Confederations Cup. — Reuters

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