Schwarzer played for Bradford, Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea and Leicester, while his early blooding in Germany was gained with Dynamo Dresden and 1.FC Kaiserslautern. He also played in two UEFA Cup Finals, two World Cups and he claimed a Premier League winner’s medal in each of his last two seasons prior to retirement, as well as the Carling Cup with Boro in 2004.
What were your feelings about the behaviour of Gianluigi Buffon in confronting Michael Oliver during his Juventus side’s defeat at Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, Mark?
I thought it was really poor. For probably 99.9 per cent of Buffon’s career he has been beyond reproach and a real ambassador for his clubs, his country and the game, but on that night and at that moment he really let himself, and a lot of other people down. It was shocking!
Even if you allow for the heat of the moment, for him to remain so adamant with his comments after several days made it even worse for me.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said he can “understand it perfectly”, and that “it’s football, it’s sport, it’s life… it’s very hard to lose at the last minute.”
Again, that is amazing to hear from the man in charge, when what they should both be doing is coming out and saying what Buffon did and said was unacceptable. Referees deserve and need the respect of everyone in the game.
Many an eyebrow was raised when Martin Atkinson gave a foul against Southampton’s Charlie Austin for his challenge on Chelsea’s Willy Caballero during the FA Cup semi-final, disallowing an equaliser and not prompting the intervention of the VAR. Out came the cliches about keepers being over-protected…
Firstly, goalkeepers are not over-protected at all! I have had similar situations where the goal was given, and the referee has come and apologised to me, which is not much use to anyone!
I think one of the times it was El Hadji Diouf, when Blackburn ended up winning at Fulham in 2009 and Rob Styles allowed his goal after Diouf had blatantly shoved me.
All your focus has to be on the ball, you can’t afford to look anywhere else, and players like Diouf can be clever; all it takes is a nudge and you’ve lost possession or you can’t quite get there.
Can you share what you tell your son Julian, who is a young keeper at Fulham, about dealing with similar scenarios?
Yes, I tell him you just have to come and get it, regardless, you can’t rely on an interpretation being applied like it was at Wembley or anything like that. Make sure you get enough on it to remove it from the danger area and rely on the ref to do his job second.
He will learn soon enough if it hasn’t sunk in already that it’s your mistake even if it’s not your fault, so, when you come, of course use your timing and your power, but just make sure you get that ball!
Some keepers obviously care more about their own safety than others, and you can surely put that down to human nature… Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid’s Slovenian keeper, almost struck the post in attempting to keep out Alexandre Lacazette’s goal at the Emirates recently. What, if any injuries have you inflicted on yourself?
You just need to develop a sixth sense for where the posts are; it’s generally only through a lack of positional awareness that accidents happen and I’ve maybe made contact with the woodwork two or three times in my whole career.
I did once need stitches after training because I hit one of those metal stanchions that lay on the ground with certain kinds of goalposts, though. And you can’t do much to prevent fouls or plain getting smashed into.
You’ve never been tempted by Petr Cech-type headgear, yourself, then?
Well I quite possibly might have been if I’d have been caught by a knee like he was! There was nothing he could have done to prevent that injury [a fractured skull in the opening minute of Reading versus Chelsea, 2006] that day.
Who were, or are, your favourite refs?
I thought Howard Webb did an incredible job in the 2010 World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands, even if he might have done better with Nigel de Jong’s challenge. I really felt for him, knowing that if he had brought out the red card at that point he would inevitably have been accused of ruining the game.
I admired Mark Clattenburg, too. Just like Webb he has an authentic personality, which I prefer in a ref, and I found both of them approachable, which you can also say about Michael Oliver.
With there being no British or Australian refs out in Russia this summer, and given your German parentage, do you have a favourite among the current crop of their top referees?
No, but probably my least favourite referee ever is a German! I was playing for Australia when Markus Merk was given our group fixture against Brazil in Munich during the 2006 World Cup. I had real respect for him before that game.
Not only did he make some very poor decisions, he also treated us like some third world country in football terms. Even when I used my German to try and talk to him afterwards he was having none of it.
Funny you should bring him up, this reporter asked Dr Markus about that very game at the referee camp near Frankfurt shortly afterwards, generously omitting his part in the 1993 Netherlands/England game [for it was Merk, as fourth official in Rotterdam, at whom Graham Taylor shouted “I am a metre” as well as “thank your colleague ever so much for that, won’t you”]. A combative Merk straight out refused to discuss his performance on a so-called open day…
He certainly showed us no respect, we were all blown away by his appalling attitude.
So, what about Australia’s prospects in the imminent World Cup, and how vital will a recent addition to the Premier League, Mathew Ryan, be in making progress?
I speak to Matt at games over here, but he’s his own man. In the latter stages of my career we were in the same squad but we have very different styles.
I do give him bits and pieces but you have to say he has done brilliantly since being close to losing his place after six games or so. Chris Hughton had just brought in Tim Krul and that added pressure, but he found his feet and seemed to use their 1-0 win over Newcastle in particular as a springboard.
Don’t forget, we know by now it’s not always easy for every player coming in from a different league and a different country to adapt as well as he has.
The national team has a new coach in Bert van Marwiyk, and France, Denmark and Peru makes for an interesting group, one that could have been a lot worse.
It’s one I’d be happy with if I was still involved, even if Peru are somewhat of an unknown quantity. Bert will need time for his players to adapt, that’s for sure, so I just hope he feels he’s had enough time to make us competitive.