Friday, September 2, 2016

2 September 1920 - Well, That's One Way To Win A Match

On 2 September 1920, Belgium took the gold medal at the Summer Olympics after their opponent in the final, Czechoslovakia, walked off the pitch in protest after only 40 minutes. 

The Czechs had rolled through the preliminary rounds, racking up scores of 7-0 over Yugoslavia, 4-0 over Norway, and 4-1 over France. Belgium, as hosts, entered the tournament one round later and advanced with convincing wins over Spain (3-1) and the Netherlands (3-0). Their referee in the match against the Netherlands was 72-year old Englishman John Lewis, who drew high praise from the Belgian press for his officiating. L'Action Nationale, the Belgian national newspaper, said that Lewis "refereed the game magnificently" and called for him to take charge of the final. He did, along with two English linesmen. 

The match was played before a crowd of 35,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Antwerp. Belgium took an early lead with a 6th-minute penalty from Robert Coppée, then doubled their lead in the 30th minute with a goal from Henri Larnoe. Things continued to get worse for Czechslovakia when Lewis ejected left back Karel Steiner in the 40th minute. That proved to be the final straw for the Czechs, who immediately walked off the pitch and did not return, so the result was awarded to Belgium. 

Czechoslovakia filed a subsequent protest, complaining that both goals were the result of incorrect calls from Lewis and the linesmen, whom they claimed had been biased. Specifically, they complained that "The majority of the decisions of the referee Mr. Lewis were distorted and it was obvious that it gave the public the wrong impression in regard to our game. Also both Belgian goals were the result of incorrect decisions of the referee and we seek a rigorous investigation on that point." 

Their complaint was dismissed, however, and Belgium retained the gold medal. It remains the only time in a major tournament that one of the finalists was disqualified. 

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