It was a strange scene that took place in the 67th minute in the game between Arsenal FC and FC Bayern at the Emirates Stadium in London. London goalkeeper David Raya played a goal kick to his Brazilian defender Gabriel. But he didn’t stop the ball with his foot, as is usually the case in football, but picked up the ball with his hand, lifted it up briefly and realized at that moment that he wasn’t quite right. So he put the ball back on the five-meter line, played it back to the keeper and acted as if he had just taken the goal kick.

Many spectators in the stadium and on TV didn’t really notice the scene. The Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg, however, had seen the scene – but there was still no whistle.

The Bayern players protested, it was of no use. Nyberg spread his arms, waved away concerns and continued running. According to Thomas Tuchel, the Swede is said to have told the Bayern players that it was a “kid’s mistake” and that he wouldn’t let something like that happen in a quarter-final of the Champions League.

Thomas Tuchel, when asked about the scene after the game, seemed more surprised than annoyed. This was certainly because the scene and the referee’s lack of a whistle were so bizarre that they had to be allowed to sink in. “This is a completely new way of interpreting the rules,” said a dismayed Tuchel finally.

What else could he have said?

Despite all the technical innovations, referees always have a lot of discretion in their decisions. There are endless possibilities for interpretation in various game scenes. Just take the eternal debates about handballs in the penalty area. But a good referee finds a line (generous or petty strict) and sticks to it. This is generally accepted. Nyberg’s decision, however, is not a “kid’s mistake”, not a matter of interpretation, but a blatant mistake that has clearly disadvantaged Bayern. A penalty could have meant a 3-1 lead and victory.

Nyberg’s justification for the decision is almost as absurd. A childhood mistake? In the Champions League knockout round? According to this logic, only mistakes/fouls that were committed without stupidity or suspicion should be whistled. An unintentional kick to the shin that stops an attacker in the penalty area would only be a penalty depending on the mood. What may make sense in children’s football is extremely embarrassing and causes great damage in the highly professionalized million-dollar business of football. The good thing about rules is that they ensure a measure of justice. That they create realities. A referee who no longer feels committed to the applicable rules undermines his own authority and the integrity of the sport. It opens the door to arbitrariness.

It will be interesting to see whether the Swede will ever be allowed to referee a game at this level again. Uefa would do well to stop using him.