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The Most Bizarre Red Card I’ve Ever Seen Was All My Fault

No sport punishes players for in-game infringements more harshly than soccer. Imagine if American football, basketball or baseball forced a team to play a man down because one player made an ill-advised foul or lost his cool at the wrong time. It all makes the most bizarre red card I’ve ever seen all the more painful, especially since it was kind of my fault.

Like many soccer fans in America, I grew up playing the beautiful game. Youth soccer was a huge part of my life, whether it was training with my club team, playing for my high school or the near-daily pickup games I played with friends. Sure, I had my nerdy pursuits growing up, but I spent much of my childhood on the pitch with my friends and teammates.

Growing up I had one teammate I knew would always be there, for better or worse. My twin brother, Tyler, was on every team I ever played for, usually playing behind me in defense as I manned the midfield. It was my brother who received the most bizarre red card I’ve ever seen. (Not the worst, mind you; I documented that here.)

Playing in a tournament in Houston, where I was born and raised, my club team was involved in a feisty group-stage battle. At some point in the match, I picked up a yellow card. I wasn’t too worried about the caution — I led the team in yellow cards, because I was a bit of a Roy Kent-esque asshole on the pitch — and knew I’d be able to continue without picking up a second. I wasn’t prepared for what the referee did next.

Later in the match, my identical twin brother committed a foul. It was probably a yellow card, but nothing more. To the shock of everyone — including the other team — my brother was shown a straight red card. No one could figure out how such a relatively harmless foul warranted a red card, but at least my team held on for a draw despite playing a man down.

Not until after the match did I realize why the referee opted to pull out his red card. It seems as though the referee made the asinine assumption that my brother was already on a yellow and thus pulled out the red. Yes, this would mean the referee would have made a number of mistakes in brandishing the red card, but it was the only explanation that made sense.

A quality ref — something severely lacking in the U.S. even today, but especially 20+ years ago — would have first looked into his book to determine whether a player has been cautioned. I know we looked alike, but we wore different numbers. Additionally, referees are supposed to show a yellow and then a red for a second caution, something this official failed to do. Again, the foul was barely worth a yellow and certainly wasn’t a red in any realm. 

It was the most bizarre red card I’ve ever seen, all because of a referee who clearly didn’t know what he was doing. While instances of mistaken identity have occurred on red cards in the past (Kieran Gibbs would like to have a word), I would guess there aren’t too many examples of referees mixing up two twins out of sheer laziness. 

I wish I had known what was going on at the time, as I could have explained to the referee that I was the one with the yellow card, not my brother who was unjustly sent off. I also think about the fact if I wasn’t playing and hadn’t already received a yellow card, my brother never would have been sent off, but I’m slightly less upset about my existence as a human on this planet. 

Let us know if you’ve witnessed similarly bizarre red cards, and we’ll all hope referees continue to improve in this country, especially at the youth level.

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