PETE SPENCER has a Welsh whistle-man at number 4 on his list of memorable World Cup events…

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CLIVE THOMAS 1978

Welsh-born Thomas, was a referee in the 70’s & 80’s who gained notoriety for being a stickler for the rules, no matter what. In Argentina 1978, he managed to propel his reputation worldwide.

In Brazil’s first game they were struggling to beat Sweden. The game was poised 1-1 with seconds to go. In those days any time added on was purely at the referee’s discretion. Brazil had a corner on the right. Nelinho was ordered by the linesman to re-spot the ball and then curled it with the outside of his right foot into the 6-yard box where Zico headed in the winner. Or so we thought.

Clive ‘rules-is-rules’ Thomas had thought Brazil were taking too long over the corner so once Nelinho struck the ball, Thomas blew for full time. By the time Zico scored, Thomas had turned his back on proceedings and was walking off the pitch. Surrounded by distraught Brazilians stunned by the decision, he calmly waved them away with the air of a school master calling an end to break-time. Thomas maintained he told the Brazilians to “get on with it”, but whether they understood a man from the Rhonda Valley is unclear.

Ironically, the day before the same thing happened at the same venue. Although, on that occasion the referee stopped the game before France took their set-piece.

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