Soccer itself—and lower leagues especially—is prone to a kind of reckless, senseless violence not typically found in American sports. Toss in a heavy dose of Russians to the mix, and what is already often a caustic concoction turns downright toxic.
The Guardian has the details on this nutty story. Nikolai Moshchev, a 65-year-old ref from Porkhov, found himself officiating a match way down in one of Russia’s amateur leagues between Gdov and his home city’s eponymous club. Gdov didn’t like the idea of a local overseeing a match involving the local team, and the team and fans made a whole to-do about it ahead of the match. (Porkhov fans suspect the pregame anger had more to do with an earlier loss than the nativity of the ref.)
When the game finally came, Gdov came out hot. The team was quick to shout insults at the ref and opponent for any call they deemed questionable, leading Moshchev to send off two Gdov players before halftime for their on-field behavior. Fearing the growing discontent, the ref called for police at the intermission in case things really got out of hand. He was informed there were none available.
Taking matters into his own hands, Moshchev returned to the pitch for the second 45 armed with a stun gun. The weapon’s presence and the ref’s liberal brandishing of it appeared to tamp down on some of Gdov’s antics—until the end of the match, that is. Things came to a head after one inarguably strange series of calls. Here’s the Guardian:
The key incident, at the end of the game, appears to have occurred when a Porkhov attack ended with a foul on the edge of the box. The referee gave a free-kick, which Porkhov scored to go 3-2 ahead while the Gdov players were still arguing with the referee. At this point, the referee took the unusual decision of cancelling out the goal but awarding a penalty instead, which Porkhov also scored, leading to further scenes of chaos.
Both teams swarmed around the diminutive Moshchev. As the ref sought to reestablish control, a now shirtless Gdov player trotted over to him and delivered a lunging cross kick directly to his head:
Moshchev emerged from that blow fine enough, and managed to escape the grasp of another Gdov player. As he was backpedaling away from the mass of bodies, an unidentified assailant came from behind with the knockout blow to the base of his skull:
Moshchev was taken to the hospital were he experienced “memory loss, nausea and dizziness.” An unprecedented paroxysm of madness, surely? Not quite:
Kuznetsov [a fan in attendance] said it was not rare for games to end in fights, and said two other games in the Pskov league that day had also featured punch-ups. A referee being taken to hospital, however, is a new low and has brought the league to the attention of Russia’s football governing bodies.