Spanish linesman turns TV star

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Following the recent success in Spain of a comedy film with the unlikely title of Matias the Linesman (or Matias the Assistant Referee depending on which translation you use), a real-life Matias has emerged, much to the amusement of Spanish fans everywhere - with the exception of those of Zaragoza.

In the film a linesman who recommends a penalty award against the Spanish national side has to take refuge from angry fans in a remote village. Now Rafael Guerrero has received telephone threats and the school where he is a caretaker has been daubed with grafitti after he told referee Enrique Mejuto of an alleged infringement in Zaragoza's game with Barcelona at the weekend.

On his advice, Mejuto sent off Zaragoza's Xavier Aguado and awarded the penalty from which Barcelona equalised, before going on to win 5-3 after trailing 3-1. But television replays suggest Guerrero was mistaken about the player involved, and possibly the nature of the incident.

Viewers have been treated to unexpurgated versions - complete with heavy obscenities - of the conversation in which Mejuto asks the linesman what he is signalling for and Guerrero replies: "Penalty and sending- off." Mejuto, not best pleased at the inevitable controversy that will ensue, then falls victim to his taste for colourful obscenities.

A television microphone captured the conversation in detail and on Monday supporters at Atletico Madrid's game with Hercules were already chanting the best-known and most obscene phrases of the exchange. Unfortunately they are too blue to print in a family newspaper, but Matias the Linesman should soon be on general release.