In case he was in any doubt as to Poland's sentiments yesterday, the first question fired at Howard Webb came from a Polish reporter who asked the English referee what it felt like to be "public enemy No 1". Speaking for the first time about awarding Austria a last-minute penalty against Poland on Thursday, Webb said that he stood by his original decision and was not affected by death threats against him from, among others, the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk.
The former police sergeant from Rotherham said that he had been right to award a penalty to Austria in Vienna when Mariusz Lewandowski pulled Sebastian Prödl's shirt. Ivica Vastic converted the spot-kick to earn Austria a 1-1 draw.
Webb added that his only mistake had been to allow Roger Guerreiro's first-half goal for Poland to stand. "There was a mistake in the game, because the Polish goal was offside," he said. "We've analysed why that happened and are all working hard to avoid that type of mistake in the second game."
There was good news for Webb and his English assistants Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann, as Uefa has given them Spain's final Group D game against Greece in Salzburg. There is nothing riding on the game – Spain are through and Greece are out – but it represents a vote of confidence from the governing body for the youngest referee at Euro 2008.
Webb, 36, has been the target of anonymous threats and one bizarre comment from Tusk, who said: "As the prime minister I have to be balanced and collected, but I wanted to kill [Webb]." While Tusk has since apologised, South Yorkshire police are keeping an eye on Webb's family home, although they do not believe the threats, most of them posted on the internet, to be serious. Webb has had phone calls supporting him from Lord Triesman, the chairman of the Football Association, and Brian Barwick, the chief executive.
Nevertheless, the man in question did not look unduly concerned when he answered questions at the referees' base in Regensdorf near Zurich yesterday. "We're here to do a job and always do it honestly and to the best of our abilities – that is what we're doing," Webb said. "We don't want to be popular, but we want to be respected for doing the correct job. We feel that we did the correct job.
"There was one mistake with the goal scored by Poland, but other than that I feel we did the correct job. I gave the decision I saw. For me it was clear and I hope that people will look back later and think it was the only decision that could've been made."
Webb added he would not allow threats against him to deter him. "It's the uglier side of the game, but most people are reasonably nice in every country and good football supporters," he said "Things are said in the heat of the moment in football. It's a passionate game. The support we've had from all over the world has been excellent. Before every game we've had lots of text messages from colleagues and family and friends. I'm aware that all referees get that support, which is important."Reuse content