Juventus captain Gigi Buffon defended his comments about referee Michael Oliver. “I had to let that out, even if it damaged my reputation.”
The goalkeeper was sent off for dissent after referee Oliver awarded a controversial last-gasp penalty, sending Real Madrid through to the Champions League semi-final.
Buffon was criticised for his over the top comments, including calling Oliver an “assassin of dreams”, but he broke his silence and doesn’t seem ready to apologise.
“I don’t have to make up for anything, because I am a human being who puts passion, sentiment and anger into what I do,” Buffon told Le Iene television programme.
“You find a way to speak, right or wrong, that at times can seem excessive… but this is me, I am Gigi Buffon. The other night the game had finished an hour and a half ago, so consequently what one expresses at that moment are sentiments and thoughts that are strong, in certain respects raw, but the sentiments of a man who won’t hide behind a veil of hypocrisy and instead throws out what is bubbling in his guts. End of story.
“Right there, you cannot ask a man who lives sport as deeply as I do to be balanced, because even if I expressed these feelings in an exaggerated way, they were still logical thoughts. I’d say them all again. Maybe with a different type of language, one that was more civilised, let’s say. But the content remains and I stand by all of it.
“Even if I was excessive, I said what I thought, that he should not have given that penalty. A referee with more experience would not have blown his whistle and decided not to become the protagonist of the match. He would’ve left it running, turned around and let the two teams fight it out in extra time. Let the pitch do the talking.
“I’m sure Oliver will have a great career in future, but he’s too young to officiate a match like that. The beauty, the imponderable nature of football, means that unfortunately this young man found himself in a situation that was too complex, too garbled and too big for him to deal with.
“So at the end of the day, what I said after the match, I don’t hold any rancour towards Oliver. I’m not even angry with him. It all ended there, but naturally in the heat of the moment one does feel I’m not saying penalised… I felt defrauded. Not defrauded of the result, but of the night. It was a night that can never be repeated.
“We could’ve written a memorable page in the history books of football for Juve, for Italy. Our victory combined with that of Roma (who beat Barcelona 3-0 the night before to wipe out a 4-1 first leg aggregate result) would’ve been just incredible.
“Before being a Juventino, I am an Italian, and I really cared about Italian football doing well. Seeing Roma achieve that amazing comeback, I was so passionately cheering them on. Seeing Juve go to Madrid and come back from 3-0 down… I got emotional. It was just priceless.
“I have lost more important matches than this, but the way it developed and was evolving, it was the most wonderful and exciting match I had ever experienced with Juventus. I think the same is true of my teammates and the fans.”
Even with footage from multiple different angles, the debate continues to rage on whether Medhi Benatia’s nudge on Lucas Vazquez was a penalty.
“It wasn’t a situation where you could say: ‘That is definitely a penalty.’ I’m not saying it wasn’t a penalty, I am saying it was a dubious situation. In a game like that, 20 seconds from the end, a dubious situation is not going to be enough for an experienced referee to transform everything. In my view, an experienced referee would make a different evaluation.
“Give me at least the legitimacy to defend in an exasperated and passionate manner the performance of my teammates, to defend those 5,000 fans who came to Madrid to cheer us on.
“I have to defend my teammates and fans, even in a not very composed fashion, because I feel it. I had to let that out, even if it damaged my reputation.”