Stop the world, we want off. We don't want to live in a world where referees send ballboys off just for trying to be helpful. What's wrong with the the world, anyway? And who knew you ballboys could even be sent off? We thought that just happened to players. Silly us.
The whistle-happy ref was officiating in a big match in South Africa's Premier Soccer League between ladder-leading Cape Town City and fourth-placed Kaizer Chiefs. (Yes, Kaizer Chiefs are a football team, as distinct from Kaiser Chiefs the band).
For the record, the match ended 1-1. But the unofficial scoreline of the day should read Cold-hearted officiousness 1, Kindness 0.
So why did referee Victor Gomes send the ballkid off?
Well, we haven't heard from the ref, but it appears he believed the kid was trying to defuse an attacking situation on behalf of his club (clubs supply the ballkids). When there are two balls on the field, refs must stop play. Goal threat over. Ballkid saves team.
The thing is, that's almost certainly not what happened. If you watch the video, it looked like the ball went out. It didn't, but it seemed to. Ballboy thought it went out, then threw it back in to get the game restarted quickly.
So actually, this was probably not gamesmanship. It was sportsmanship. Big, big difference.
Now at this point you might be asking yourself: wait, can a ref even do that? Yes, a ref can. The laws of football state that a referee can:
"Take action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds."
Ballboys presumably qualify as team officials, since -- as we said -- they are provided by clubs. And yes, it's happened before. In a Spanish league match 10 years ago, all 14 ballboys were sent off for time wasting.
There's little doubt the Spanish kids were being naughty that day. It seems just as likely the South African kid wasn't. "Aw, you gotta feel for the young lad," the commentators said. Yep, you do.