FIFA announced Sunday that Djamel Haimoudi will be refereeing Tuesday's U.S.-Belgium match. The match is eagerly anticipated, from both sides: Belgium hasn't made it to the quarter-finals since 1986, and the U.S. has made it further this year than nearly anyone anticipated. Viewership has been growing in the U.S., thanks to the team's unexpected success, and millions are expected to tune in to ESPN alone.
Of course, the high stakes of the game have led fans on both sides to heavily scrutinize FIFA's referee pick. Haimoudi is a long-time referee with much experience. He hails from Algeria, and has refereed two matches so far at the World Cup, and 65 international matches over the course of his career. So far during this World Cup, he reffed a match between the Netherlands and Australia, and between Costa Rica and England.
In 2008, 2012, and 2013, he refereed the Africa Cups, and is anticipated to do the same in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.The 43-year-old referee has been serving as a refereee since 2004, and won "Africa's Best Referee" in 2012.
Haimoudi isn't known for making controversial calls. So far in the 2014 World Cup, he has awarded five yellow Cards and called 77 fouls.
Some feel that his choice to award Australia a penalty kick at the end of the Australia-Netherlands match was wrong, but his long record speaks to his experience, and he's considered by most to be a fair and impartial referee. Still, debate is raging about how he'll handle Tuesday's match.
In an article on SBNation.com, sports journalist and soccer enthusiast Zach Woolsey wrote that the U.S. defeat over Algeria in 2010 may be the source of some fans concerns. Woolsey writes:
No doubt some conspiracy theorist will enjoy pointing out that FIFA SURELY put an Algerian referee on the USA match so he can get revenge for the American's defeat of the Fennec Foxes at the 2010 World Cup.
Questions of bias have been echoed by some on Twitter, as well.
Some Twitter users are even wondering if Haimoudi's ability to speak French will cause him to favor the linguistically-similar Belgians over the U.S. team. So, basically paranoia is rampant.
We think Haimoudi seems like a pretty good choice. He's got lots of experience, and it doesn't seem like he's phased by much. If you don't believe us, watch this hilarious video of a victorious player trying to pick him up in the air at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. No wonder Haimoudi won an award.