Review: Mattias Löw’s Rättskiparen

Stephen Parker is a great football player, fair-weather fan, quality musician and aspiring film magnate. You can catch him on Twitter: @stevetmp.

Every so often a documentary film-maker hits the jackpot. The nature of that jackpot can vary massively, from simply being in the right place at the right time, to accidentally forgetting to switch off a microphone and capturing that earth shatteringly controversial sound bite. The jackpot for Mattias Löw, a Swedish Director/Producer and documentary film-maker, was the decision to train his camera on Martin Hansson, Sweden’s top football referee, in the long build up to World Cup South Africa 2010. Hitting the jackpot can come as a result of two things: luck or insight. Löw, I think, had both.

The half hour documentary follows Hansson on his journey towards his ultimate professional goal – being chosen by FIFA to referee at South Africa 2010. What’s immediately striking about this film is how quickly it makes you care for Hansson and his fortune as he pursues the ultimate achievement in his profession. His motives are pure and honourable. He’s passionate for the game. He’s focussed and determined. I like him and the film is only 3 minutes old.

After a year in which Scottish referees went on strike due to the levels of abuse in the game, and in which England were denied a crucial World Cup goal which couldn’t have been much less than 2 feet over the line, there is no doubt that pressure on referees is higher than ever. The Referee (Rättskiparen) by Mattias Löw is exactly the kind of exposé we need more of in order to make sure the game we all love doesn’t descend further towards the dark depths of death threats and violence. I challenge anyone to show me a top-flight referee who isn’t intensely passionate about the game, and about performing to his full professional potential, week-in, week-out. Rättskiparen only serves to strengthen this notion and I heartily encourage any football fan with a spare half hour to indulge themselves in it. It’s beautifully put together and paced perfectly. The interviews and use of television/media coverage are well dispersed with real visuals of Hansson at his home and in his day-to-day life.

I was, however, slightly disappointed that Löw’s camera missed out on that fateful World Cup play-off in Paris. That’s right, for those of you who’ve been reading thinking that this bloke sounds/looks familiar, it’s because he’s the ref who didn’t see Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland at the Stade de France. Not seeing Hansson not see that is TheReferee’s one negative. Imagine how Löw himself felt, watching that at home instead of pointing his camera at it. The event is covered tastefully using replays of the event and a poignant voice over, but still.

The documentary ends slightly prematurely, in my opinion, but leaves us with a question which resonates hardest if we address it from the first person. What if I was Martin Hansson, meriting such a monumental achievement, but at such cost? Perhaps it’s better to fail? No. Thank you Martin Hansson, for continually aspiring to make our game better, and thank you Mattias Löw, for 30 minutes of top quality documentary film-making.

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