Kassai exonerated in false racism claim made against him.

This week Dr. Megyes Géza, Magistrate Judge in Györ ruled that Kassai Viktor did not make a racist remark towards Patrick Mevoungou during the DVTK v Vasas match on 29 April 2017.

By way of background, Kassai was appointed as referee for the NB1 match between DVTK v Vasas on 29 April 2017. DVTK won the match 2-1. In the 74th minute, with the game at 1-1, Lipták Zoltán was given a straight red card for violent conduct after an incident with Vasas player Felix Burmeister.

Replays quite clearly show Burmeister square up to Lipták just outside the penalty area while Vasas were lined up to take a free kick, Lipták did push him away with his left hand around the stomach area but there was minimal contact in reality, and certainly not enough to warrant the reaction of Burmeister, who went to ground clutching his stomach, rolling a couple of times for added effect.  Kassai, who had at least 3-4 players possibly obscuring his view, produced a straight red card. It is difficult to assess what Kassai’s exact view of the incident was as there is no footage that shows where he was stood or in which direction he was looking at the time of the incident, he is out of camera view. However, if you look at his position seconds before hand, when they are lining up for the free kick, he is positioned correctly and had given himself a good wide view of the penalty area for when the ball was back in play. Judging by the players positions at the same time, there are at least 3-4 players, from both teams, in his line of vision between himself and Lipták. Of course, it should be noted that there was also a lot of movement from the players so it is impossible to say whether Kassai had a good view or not. He is likely to have seen Lipták’s arm out to the side of him where he had pushed Burmeister but he would possibly have been unable to appreciate the force, or lack thereof, and would therefore more than likely have been influenced to a degree by Burmeister’s reaction. In my opinion it was no more than a yellow card offence and Lipták should have received a yellow for the push and Burmeister a yellow for simulation. I have, however, had the benefit of watching it several times on replay with the ability to pause it and watch it in slow motion, at the time he made the decision Kassai did not, he had to make a split-second decision and made the decision he honestly believed to be correct.

Whether the red card was right or not, it does not in any way excuse Lipták’s reaction. He stormed towards Kassai, very aggressively, shouting and forcing Kassai to have to keep walking backwards to prevent himself from being assaulted, and the video recording clearly shows that at least once Lipták attempted to hit out at Kassai, whilst being held back by half a dozen other players. He refused to leave the field of play and kept trying to get at Kassai, this went on for several minutes before he was finally dragged from the field of play by several of his team mates. His aggression continued as he left the pitch and he was seen hitting the outside door of the dressing room in anger. His conduct was utterly disgraceful, and he was quite rightly brought before the disciplinary committee and banned for 5 games as a result.

It was during Lipták’s personal hearing that the real problems would start. Lipták stated that he was angry because Kassai had racially abused his Cameroon teammate Patrick Mevoungou in the first half by saying to him “shut up, shut up, black, nigger …… oh g … you are!”. It is believed that Lipták did not hear this himself but had been told this had allegedly happened by his teammate.  It should be noted that at no time has Patrick Mevoungou made a formal complaint to the MLSz alleging racial abuse by Kassai, the only person who has ever mentioned it is Lipták when he stated it as an excuse for his lack of discipline. Kassai immediately denied the allegation of racist abuse and started legal proceedings against Lipták to clear his name. The court proceedings have been ongoing since.

In the NB1 any conversation between the match officials over the comms link is recorded and then uploaded to the MLSz server at the end of a game. This recording can be referred to by the MLSz in the event of a dispute. It is not always of very good quality, quite understandably, as it will be recorded whilst the referee is running about on the pitch and whilst there are probably background noise eliminators built in, football pitches are not the quietest of places and communication between players nearby might also be picked up. It is designed to record conversations between not only the match officials themselves but also between them and the players. Once the recording software has been started, it records continuously until turned off again, the referee cannot switch it on & off during a game.

During the hearing on 9th July, the court watched the first half of the match, with no TV commentary and instead had the recording from the match officials headset playing. Dr. Megyes Géza acknowledges that in parts the recording is not clear enough to understand exactly what is being said but clearly states that the comment in question was not made at any time. The recording showed that the ‘worst’ thing said by Kassai was “ne mutogasson már, nem kell csinálni a fesztivált” which translates to something along the lines of Do not show off, you do not have to do the festival. Lipták’s lawyer disputes the recording, saying he does not believe everything was recorded, I’m sure he would have been happy enough with it if it had backed up his client’s false and malicious claims against the referee! As Kassai’s lawyer rightly pointed out at the time Kassai is alleged to have made the comment to Mevoungou he is 15 metres (50 feet) away from the player and the video confirms there is no communication between them. From that distance Kassai would have had to be shouting, other players in the vicinity would have heard it (no-one did) and the headset recording would most certainly have picked it up. There was nothing recorded because it simply did not happen and this is the Judges ruling.  The matter will be back before the court at some point in the autumn for a ruling on the liable aspect and Kassai has requested a $500 compensation fee, which would be paid to the Rakczki Bence Foundation for sporting purposes.  This has not been about money for Kassai but purely to clear his name and prove that he did not make the racist comment as alleged by Lipták.

My own personal opinion, which will not be popular, is that the player should now face a ban for making a malicious and false allegation of racism against a referee purely to try to justify his appalling thuggish behaviour on the football pitch. I would like to see him banned for life but as a bare minimum he should be banned for the same length of time that Kassai has had this hanging over his head – 15 months. He took a hearsay comment, with no proof that it had happened and claimed it to be true and factual to justify his own behaviour – that is completely unacceptable.  It does not matter whether you like Kassai or not or whether you think he is a good referee or not, this false allegation made by a player has stepped well over the boundaries considered acceptable. It is one thing to say you think he is poor referee, that his decision making is questionable, error prone or just wrong, that he appears arrogant, unfriendly or aloof but it is quite another to falsely accuse him of being a racist. This is a referee who over the past 15+ years has refereed approximately 500 top flight games, domestically in the NB1, Saudi league, Qatar league, Egyptian league, Romanian & Tunisian leagues as well as worldwide at a World Cup, European Championships, the Olympics, Champions League, Europa league and International friendlies. If he was a racist it would have come out by now. I cannot even begin to imagine what he has gone through mentally over the past 15 months knowing that at any second his career could be snatched away from him, over 25 years of hard work as a referee working his way up from a youth referee to one of just 27 elite level referees in the UEFA confederation thrown away and discredited because a player told a lie in a disciplinary hearing.  Had it have been true, Kassai would have been quite rightly sacked on the spot and banned from all footballing activities for life but it was not true, and I am of the opinion that the player should now be made to suffer the consequences for making a false claim against a referee. If no action is taken against him then for me, it sends the message that it is ok to lie in a disciplinary hearing and to make a potentially career ending false allegation against a referee. It could easily have been another player, a manager or coach that he made the allegation against. I would like to see the MLSz be strong and send out a message that this conduct is not ok, it is detrimental to football as a whole and discipline the player accordingly.