By Chris Wright
Poor old BBC reporter Matt Mesiano got a damn sight more than he bargained for when he toddled along to observe local side Hemel Hempstead Town’s game against Bath City on Saturday afternoon.
Mesiano was charged with reporting back from the Conference South fixture for BBC Three Counties Radio, but instead ended the evening as a stand-in linesman after the official on duty pulled up with a calf injury after just 10 minutes.
Without a back-up to call upon, the referee began asking around for a qualified ringer, with Mesiano – a 26-year-old freelance radio reporter and level seven (i.e, junior level) amateur referee – quickly realising he was the only viable alternative.
Mesiano recounted his eventful afternoon to BBC Sport:
“There was a decent crowd, so I was a bit nervous, but I don’t think it went too badly.”
“I’m a level seven referee, which is junior county level, so I’m used to being watched by one man and his dog rather than crowds of 700-800.
“In the ninth minute assistant referee Chris Wicks went down with a tight calf muscle and couldn’t continue.
“The referee, Robert Hyde, came over to the benches and asked for a neutral qualified official, and there didn’t seem to be anybody else other than myself that fitted that description.
“There was a 10-minute break for me to put on the other lad’s outfit, luckily for me we were the same size.
“I do spent quite a bit of time at the club, covering it, so lots of people knew who I was.”
Hemel Hempstead ended up losing the game 3-0, with Mesiano showering off and changing back into his civvies in time to fulfil his post-match interview duties.
“[Hemel manager Dean Brennan] was quite happy with my performance,” Mesiano added.
“There was one moment in the first half when I flagged for a free-kick for Hemel, but the referee decided he wanted to play on, and the incident ended up with Bath City scoring.
“I did what I felt was correct, so that was an awkward moment, but nobody seemed to think it was not right.
“With the final score, I don’t think I have too many friends around here at the minute, but Dean Brennan did admit that the better team had won.”
What a (level seven) hero!
(Image via @MessyMesiano/BBC Sport)