It's hard not to feel sorry for the beleaguered referee. Criticised by many when they make a controversial call and blasted by others when they make no call at all, rare are the matches when they make it through entirely unscathed. They're the person everybody loves to hate. They can't celebrate with the winners or commiserate with the losers. They stand alone.
What they need is a way to get more involved in play - a slice of the action, a piece of the cake, a part of the play. How about every time they hand out a booking, they have to chase the culprit halfway around the pitch before they can raise that yellow card? It appears our friends at EA had that very idea back in 1993 when the first edition of FIFA International Soccer was launched for SEGA's Mega Drive. For reasons only known to EA, FIFA's debut allowed you to attempt to avoid a booking by running away from the ref whenever he called you over. It was an act of defiance that would cause the man in black to chase you around the pitch for as long as you had the balls and inclination to keep it up.
It was piss funny and a great way to kill a few minutes. As one YouTuber discovered, it's also even more amusing if you play some Benny Hill music in the background.
Perhaps the best part is how the other 21 men on the pitch simply stand in silence and watch as you attempt to avoid justice. I say 'attempt' because, sadly, no matter how long you dashed around the pitch, the moment you stopped the ref would reach for his card, presumably while gasping for air and clutching his chest.
Even worse, it was a feature EA saw fit to remove from future versions of FIFA as the franchise came from nowhere to be one of the top-selling games on the planet. In 2018, in the UK, FIFA 19 was a bigger-seller, week one, than even Red Dead Redemption 2.
More recent games in the FIFA series haven't been without their bugs. Yes, you may no longer be able to run away from the ref for hours, but as the FIFA 17 video below shows, you can happily mount one of your fellow players, twist your leg back at right angles or take to the field with no head. So prevalent are these glitches, in fact, that a cynic might deduce a few of them have been left in by EA just for LOLs. Seriously, some of these are genius.
If I'm honest, I'm secretly hoping EA sees the light and brings the ability to play 'dodge the ref' back. However, it needs to be along with a new José Mourinho mini-game where you see how long you can go before you get sent to watch the match in the stands. After all, FIFA is all about realism, right?
Words by Keith Andrew