|In the loving Memory & Spirit of the Game|
|Enjoy, your journey here on... KenAston.org|
-= The Tributes of KEN ASTON MBE
Issue 31 - 12 November 2001
Ken Aston's early bath...
|The doyen of football referees Ken Aston, who died recently, secured
his place in sporting history as the inventor of the yellow and red card
system of player reprimand. His now widely used international language
of punishment sprang from his deep commitment to the study of
psychology, a study that ran silent alongside his refereeing career.
In 1934 at the tender age of 19 Aston fell under the personal tutelage of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Aston was a firm believer in the thinking that everything in life in general and in football in particular was related to sex. He was the author of a noted dissertation that drew parallels between the loving act of coitus and the practice of scoring a goal, from riding tackles to dribbling towards the six-yard box to shooting into the top corner of the clearly feminine goalmouth. It was no surprise to him in later life that a prominent goalkeeper should bear the surname of 'Seaman'.
In the early 1950s Ken Aston took up his Acme Thunderer pea-whistle and began officiating at top-flight football matches. During this time he maintained his interest in the psychological aspects of the game, and stove to develop the art of refereeing with a heavy emphasis on analysis of the players' mental states. In the aftermath of England's humiliating 6-3 defeat by the Magnificent Magyars of Hungary, Aston, a deputy referee on the day, was on hand to counsel the England players after the final whistle. He notably helped Stanley Matthews, left weeping buckets in the changing room, to realize that the heavy defeat had occurred primarily because his mother had never loved him.
Away from the field of play Ken Aston became an instructor for trainee referees. Using his own methods he attempted to create a new generation of officials who would have a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons behind the occasionally errant behavior of players. During his lectures he explained the offside rule through the medium of mime therapy and presented case studies of dream analysis of some of the more robust defenders of the day. He once famously introduced Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautman, who broke his neck and carried on playing in the 1956 FA Cup final, as a guest speaker. Trautman had been treated by Aston for posttraumatic stress disorder in the wake of his neck injury and was considered to be a shining example of how to overcome setbacks whilst simultaneously renouncing one's Nazism.
Ken Aston faced his toughest test during the World Cup finals of 1962. He was the referee during what came to be known as the 'Battle of Santiago', a ferocious contest between hosts Chile and the much-fancied Italy in the cauldron of the Estadio Nacional. Ever experimental, Ken Aston decided to use unorthodox methods to try to stop the fists flying. At one point he brought the 22 players into the center circle, showed them a series of Rorschach Ink Blot illustrations and asked the group what they thought the pictures represented. Chile's Leonel Sanches simply saw red and punched Italy's Humberto Maschio, breaking his nose. Ken Aston effectively lost control at this point and sent two Italian players off, mainly to save them from further injury. Further bloodshed ensued and Aston, led away by his two blind linesmen, escaped to consult his research textbooks.
Ken Aston breakthrough into color therapy began in his preparation for overseeing the 1963 FA Cup final. He was asked if he would use a white ball by many partially sighted people as it showed up well on television. Then as now, the authorities were not too sure about an innovation like this, so to split the difference Aston used a yellow ball for the game, which was apparently a great success. Ken Aston was also instrumental in the design of the officials' black and white uniform and modified the linesmen's flag for better visibility.
But it was his introduction of yellow and red cards in the '66 World Cup that made the headlines. Now referees had the ability to dismiss players irrespective of whatever language they spoke. Erudite crowds during the tournament famously matched this color-coded Esperanto by learning the phrase 'The referee's a w*****!' in 46 languages.
Ken Aston leaves behind some pots of yellow and red paint and a pack of playing cards, a signed copy of Freud's 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality' and a chair that he used to be able to prove beyond all rational doubt was not a chair.
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