U.S. referee Mark Geiger was accused of asked for Ronaldo’s shirt, but that complaint was thrown out the window by FIFA.  (Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis


Don’t know if it was a sore loser, a desperation remark, a misguided comment or something new under the World Cup sun, but Morocco’s complaint about U.S. referee Mark Geiger’s performance was quashed by FIFA Thursday.

After Portugal edged Morocco 1-0 in Group B action Wednesday, midfielder Nordin Amrabat raised the prospect of partial behavior by Geiger, that the New Jersey native had asked Cristiano Ronaldo for his shirt.

“I don’t know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano,” Amrabat said in an interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS. “I’ve been just told by Pepe that in the [first half], he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? … We are at the World Cup, not a circus here.”

FIFA acted swiftly, coming out with this stern statement Thursday:

“It is with regret and disappointment that, following (the) Group B game between Portugal and Morocco, FIFA has learnt of reports in the media concerning the referee Mark Geiger.

“It has been claimed that Mr. Geiger asked for the shirt of the captain of Portugal during the half-time interval. Mr. Geiger strongly refutes these claims and categorically states that such a request was not made.

“FIFA unequivocally condemns the allegations supposedly made by a member of the Morocco team,” the statement continued. “FIFA referees are under clear instructions with regard to their behavior and relationship with the teams at the [World Cup] and it can be confirmed that Mr. Geiger has acted in an exemplary and professional manner as an appointed match official.”

It would have been stunning that Geiger, who twice was named Major League Soccer referee of the year, would have asked for a players’ jersey. He has worked the middle of countless games that have included some of the biggest stars in the soccer universe, including Thierry Henry, David Beckham, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo, among others (he also has refed the 2012 Summer Olympics, 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cups, among other high-profile assignments).

In Wednesday’s Day 7 musings, I said that Morocco actually had suffered three loses in the past eight — two on the field and another in losing to the united bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States in its quest to host the 2026 World Cup.

Well, make that four. This one is the most embarrassing one. An off-the-pitch yellow card for Amrabat and Morocco for those comments.

BTW, Geiger was back working Thursday, as the Video Assistant Referee of the Denmark-Australia match.