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Annoying The Reggae Boyz - Tonight’s Man in the Middle, Juan Gabriel Calderon

The 34 year-old Costa Rican courted controversy in November’s World Cup qualifier between Jamaica and USA...

SOCCER: JUL 15 Concacaf Gold Cup - Haiti v Canada
Tonight’s ref, Juan Gabriel Calderon taking the field for Canada’s Gold Cup match with Haiti in Kansas City, July, 2021. Canada won 4-1.
Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Juan Gabriel Calderon (34), the man in the middle for Santos Laguna’s visit to Montreal this evening is no stranger to controversy.

A relatively youthful veteran of almost 200 professional matches, including 13 in World Cup, Gold Cup, Olympic qualifying and Champions League assignments, Calderon, from Costa Rica, particularly annoyed the Jamaicans back in November, disallowing what would have been a late winning goal over the USA in Kingston in World Cup qualifying.

There are plenty in this country who have been glued to this particular World Cup qualifying series and many will recall the incident.

Damion Lowe leapt above US defender Walker Zimmerman with 6 regulation minutes still to play and the scores deadlocked at 1-1. He met Leon Bailey’s corner forcefully and powered a header beyond Zack Steffen in the US goal. The Jamaican fans erupted but Mr Calderon whistled for a foul on the American defender.

Put simply, Walker Zimmerman will not benefit from a softer decision in his career should he play until he’s 90.

Jamaica’s Damion Lowe thought he’d given the island-nation World Cup victory over the USA back in November, only for Juan Gabriel Calderon to adjudge he had fouled Walker Zimmerman in making his powerful header.

Jamaican coach Theodore Whitmore must have been biting on his tongue profusely when reflecting rather magnanimously post-match, “I wouldn’t complain about the officiating,” although he also remarked his view from the sideline wasn’t great.

Mr Calderon has officiated in four games involving Canadian teams, non-controversially it should be said; Toronto’s 1-1 draw with Independiente in which Omar Browne confirmed TFC’s CCL exit with a goal in 2019, two matches in last year’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Guadalajara, including the semi-final defeat to Mexico and Canada’s 4-1 Gold Cup triumph over Haiti in Kansas City in July last year.

But he was heavily criticized last April after CF Monterrey left Columbus with a 2-2 draw in Champions League play. On that occasion Crew coach, Caleb Porter was so incensed by Mr Calderon’s refereeing he left a remarkable post-match press conference early in what could only be described as raging disgust.

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Monterrey at Columbus Crew SC
Caleb Porter was highly critical of Juan Gabriel Calderon’s handling of the Columbus Crew v Monterrey CCL game last April. In the picture he reacts resignedly to a foul by Monterrey’s Ak Loba.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Porter called the officiating ‘a joke’ and felt with some justification the Mexican side’s, at times, dubious tactics were allowed to flourish. In particular he was aggrieved at a soft yellow card shown to his player Lucas Zelarayan, ruling him out of the second-leg, while “... they [Monterrey] had six, seven fouls worse than the foul [of Zelarayan] and no card, and he [Zelarayan] gets a yellow card...”

Of course it’s generally known as being Concacaffed in these parts. Let’s hope no Concacaffing goes on this evening.