Mark Clattenburg has opened up on the reason behind his infamous tongue exercises during the 2016 Champions League final.
The former Premier League referee, who spent 13 years in the English top flight and also officiated the Euro 2016 final, became an internet sensation when caught on camera licking his lips at Real Madrid defender Pepe during Los Blancos’ victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in Milan.
Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Clattenburg explained how the bizarre incident came about.
“It was really hot that day and I remember coming off the pitch and everybody was on about my tongue,” he said.
“They weren’t even talking about my refereeing performance, which was a good thing. All they were talking about was this lizard tongue, so I thought, you know what? That wasn’t a bad thing to do.
Do love seeing Mark Clattenburg embrace his Lizard side. pic.twitter.com/QCg02Ym9kr
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) May 28, 2016
“It was just a reaction to actually my mouth being completely dry, but it worked perfect because Pepe was on the floor and when you watch back, oh my god, what a soft sh*te rolling around!
“Actually the moment it happened was probably the perfect moment because I think what I did was what everybody back at home watching actually thought of Pepe, so it actually worked out quite well!”
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Footage of Clattenburg immediately went viral on Twitter while his actions have also been immortalised on YouTube, but the Geordie whistle-blower was not always so popular with the fans.
Clatts is widely considered to be one of the most successful referees of his generation, but he attracted plenty of criticism when he decided to leave the Premier League for a role with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in 2017.
“I used to get quite a lot of stick in the end,” the 45-year-old said.
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“I remember my first game after I signed [to move to Saudi Arabia] – because I carried on for a couple of month as they finished the season off in England – going to West Brom and some of the chants… it was like I was only going for the money and effing and jeffing about selling my soul to Saudi. It just rings around in your head.
“It doesn’t get to you because you’ve got to be thick-skinned to be a referee and sometimes it goes one ear and out the other. If they care about it so much to chant, that’s not a bad thing, but at the end of day as a referee, I just try to do my job.
“I can remember this game against West Brom, I got four big decisions right in the game and I was absolutely given death threats and everything until Match of the Day. I wish Match of the Day was at five o’clock!
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“I went back as the fourth official the following week and Tony Pulis, the coach, said ‘Oh I’m sorry’. I say ‘Sorry for what?’
“He says ‘Oh you got all them decisions right’. I said ‘Well, yeah that’s what I’m paid to do’. Unfortunately, sometimes you did get decisions wrong and that’s life.
“I remember the song ‘The referee is a w*nker’. That was always in my head. Then Clattenburg’s a w*nker. You would even give a penalty and then you’d probably say to yourself ‘Clattenburg’s a w*nker”.
“The players would look at you like ‘why are you calling yourself a wanker?’ It’s like, because I’ve heard it from the crowd!”
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