How Do Referee Decisions Affect the Emotions of Soccer Players?

Referee decisions can be a rollercoaster for soccer players' emotions. A disputed call can trigger frustration and anger, especially if it feels like a stolen opportunity.

Referee Decisions Affect the Emotions of Soccer Players

Some of you may remember situations such as Paolo Di Canio pushing a referee during a Premier League match, which later resulted in an 11-match ban for this player. Well, such situations don't happen today, but controversial refereeing decisions still regularly lead to discussions and conflicts and often become the subject of heated debates among soccer fans.

But that's what we see. However, what we don't see is what is happening in the players' heads, and that’s what has the greatest impact on the outcome of the match, which is why we’re going to discuss that today!

Impact of Referee Decisions on Player Behavior

It’s no secret that referee decisions can significantly impact player behavior, often triggering a range of emotional reactions that can influence the course of a game. It’s like setting off a chain reaction, and the intensity of these emotions can affect the flow of the match. The player's reaction often leads to things like:
  • protests
  • aggressive gestures
  • verbal outbursts directed at referees or opposing players
  • physical violence (in extreme cases)

From second to second, the players become more nervous, and the situation in the stands also changes — however, history has been showing us that one yellow card can change the entire course of the match, so it’s obvious that every team will react to it in a more or less emotional way.

In the preparation of this article, we have talked to several sports psychologists who have worked closely with players from professional European leagues, and there is one interesting thing that we’ve concluded out of all the meetings. All of these specialists agreed on what has the most negative effect on the attitude of soccer players towards the match: a more lenient attitude towards the opposing team and a harsh one towards their team. Here’s what one of them said:

“All decisions that influence us and that we perceive as unjust or biased will often lead to decreased morale. It’s like working under a boss who seems to favor some employees over others; the entire work environment can become very stressful and tense. This is no different in sports such as soccer. But you know, the pitch is much more dynamic than a typical workplace, especially in the second half of the match, where every millisecond is perceived differently, which is why players often take more extreme and emotionally driven decisions.”

This makes a lot of sense — seeing as someone make unfair decisions toward you when all of your family, friends, and fans can't do anything about it… doesn’t sound pleasant, right? So, what can we do about it?

How to Effectively Control Emotions on the Pitch?

In terms of managing stress on the pitch, there is no one-size-fits-all method, and all the sports psychologists we have spoken to can confirm that. However, they also told us that what is important in stress management is not what stress management technique we use during stress, but before it happens. In fact, all high-level soccer players are known to use various techniques and activities that reduce their overall stress levels, not just during a match.

PlayerStress Management Technique
Lionel MessiMeditation
Cristiano RonaldoIce baths
Neymar Jr.Playing video games
Mohamed SalahUninterrupted reading
Kevin De BruyneNature walks
Robert LewandowskiYoga
Sergio RamosCasual boxing

Another interesting method for learning to control emotions under pressure can also be sessions at online casinos. On the website you can choose licensed casinos that have been checked up and down by independent expert Karolina Mościcka.

iEveryone who’s been into gambling for a bit knows that it’s not only about luck — a big part of it is managing your emotions, especially for games like:

You don’t have an impact on every game and roll, just like you can’t control the referee’s decisions. However, you can definitely control how you react to what’s happening.

Famous Soccer Matches in Which the Referee's Decision Influenced the Result

Since the implementation of the VAR system, there have been fewer and fewer controversial decisions by referees every year, but history is still filled with such matches. And, well, looking at some of them, we're not surprised that the players sometimes let their nerves go:

MatchTournamentDescription of ImpactFinal Match Result
Germany vs. England2010 World CupA clear goal by England's Frank Lampard was not recognized, which would have tied the game at 2-2Germany won 4-1
South Korea vs. Italy2002 World CupThe referee made a couple of questionable calls, including wrongly calling an Italian goal offside and issuing a controversial red card to Francesco Totti.South Korea won 2-1 (AET)
Chelsea vs. Barcelona2009 Champions League Semi-finalReferee Tom Henning Ovrebo overlooked several penalty-worthy fouls in Chelsea's favor1-1; Barcelona advanced on away goals
France vs Ireland2009 World Cup QualifierThierry Henry's handball, not caught by the referee, directly assisted the goal that qualified FranceFrance won 2-1 (AET)

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