Erling Haaland and the linesman’s autograph – harmless fun or total disgrace?

What’s the angriest you’ve ever been with a linesman?

A crucial goal for your club wrongly ruled out for offside? Ball which may not have crossed line given as a goal, on sunny day in 1966, Alan Ball ran all day, but you were supporting West Germany? Took against ornate flag-raising technique in a Sunday League game?

Well set your fury to frothing after the highest of jinks on Tuesday night, when Erling Haaland was asked for an autograph after Borussia Dortmund’s defeat at Manchester City.

Nothing too unusual there, apart from the the autograph hunter being referee’s assistant Octavian Sovre.

Unsurprisingly, the reaction to this has not been universally positive. 

“You can’t do that in front of the other players,” said Owen Hargreaves on BT Sport. “It just doesn’t look right,” which does make it sound like Emre Can might have been miffed that he wasn’t asked too. 

Pep Guardiola was less upset. “Maybe he’s a fan of Haaland and he’s here, so why not? Maybe it was for his son or his daughter, I don’t know.” This year, give the kids what they really want: an autographed yellow card. 

Some things we can all agree on:

  • This is a terrible look
  • If you’re going to ask for an autograph, do it where there probably aren’t any cameras
  • The game’s gone

But what are the angriest sections of society actually angry about here? 

OK, there is a quaint notion in sport that the people in charge should be neutral. It’s why Mike Dean isn’t allowed to referee Tranmere games:

It’s not possible to remain neutral if a play-off semi win is enough to get you punching the air on top of a terrace barrier.

But this match was over. Haaland isn’t going to be involved in a tight offside call in the dressing room. Sovre’s biggest crime is forming a detail in a future Cold War Steve collage. 

Unfortunately for Sovre it’s not the first time he has broken the biggest rule of assistant refereeing this season: do not become the story. He was reprimanded by Uefa for ‘inappropriate behaviour’ during December’s PSG vs Istanbul Basaksehir match, in which players walked off after coach Pierre Webo alleged fourth official Sebastian Coltescu used racist language.

Perhaps he knows this will be his farewell tour of top-level European football line-running? If so his hunt for a souvenir makes a little more sense.

There is an argument that this is the cult of personality in football gone too far. The logical end point when you elevate individuals like Haaland, via YouTube compilations and Fifa Ultimate Team special cards. Match officials end up too blinded by star power to see straight.

Perhaps the next logical step is an incursion into the regrettable territory of kids bringing along signs to matches.  Look out for the second leg referee arriving with a card reading “Kevin, I have travelled from Budapest, please can I have your shirt?” 

One small crumb of comfort if you’re still furious: At least he didn’t ask for a selfie.

What did you make of the autograph-hunting match official? Lifetime ban or charming fan? Which autograph in your collection are you proudest of? Let us know in the comments section below
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