Gabriel Murta, the intrepid Brazilian referee who saw fit to break out the strap in order to deal with some violent players, is being defended by the local referee governing body. They explain that while bringing a piece to the pitch may seem extreme, refereeing in Brazil’s lower levels is often so wild that pulling out a gun for self-defense isn’t necessarily grounds for punishment.

Globo Esporte has more details on both the incident as it occurred and its aftermath. Murta is actually a member of the military police, which is why he was packing that day. Here’s his account of what happened:

The referee said he was beaten on the field and went to the locker room to seek out the gun to break up the situation and arrest the player.

“I took a slap to the face and a kick to the shin. I was pressured by several players and sought the gun in the locker room to arrest the [offending] player. But he ran, jumped the fence and ran away. I just wanted to defend myself and take action as a police officer. I was beaten as a citizen, he committed a crime.”

Given that Murta (supposedly) did not look to use the weapon out of anger but instead in his official capacity as a military police officer—and that he (supposedly) never fired the weapon or pointed it anyone—the referees’ federation is supporting him.

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Not only did Murta handle himself well in their eyes, they say they understand first-hand just how dangerous the occupation can be. Said the director of the refs’ federation [emphasis added]:

“He acted in self-defense. Everyone knows the difficulty of amateur championships. The referees have already been through difficult situations. We have had several cases of referees being assaulted and even shot.

Murta himself is no stranger to assault on his person. “I feel very insecure,” he said. “It was the third or fourth time I’ve been beaten, unfortunately.”

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For these reasons and more, the refs’ committee will not punish Murta. He has been ordered to undergo psychological counseling; past that, no other penalty will be imposed.

Referees are not encouraged to carry guns, and the federation remains content that this case is singular since Murta is a trained officer empowered to have and use the weapon as part of his official duties.

Still, the federation does see this incident as indicative of a larger problem in the game:

“Brazil is experiencing a crisis of disrespect to the authorities. I think this is more pronounced with this episode.”

[Globo Esporte]