Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg says he’s still annoyed that the former Chelsea midfielder wrongly accused him of making a racist comment eight years ago.
Clattenburg is considered one of the most highly-rated European referees of his generation, having refereed several notable matches, including the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final and the UEFA Euro 2016 Final.
But Clattenburg nearly had his reputation tarnished in 2012 when Mikel accused the Consett-born match official of directing a racist comment towards him during a league match against Manchester United.
Mikel took offence when teammate Ramires told the Nigerian that he had heard Clattenburg call Mikel a “monkey”. But, neither Clattenburg nor the three other match officials, who could hear everything being said in their earpieces, heard the comment.
The FA said that neither Mikel, who was much closer to the referee than Ramires, heard what it is suggested was said to him.
Nor was there anything in the video evidence to support the allegation and nor did two other players, whose first language is English, hear anything untoward.
The FA cleared Clattenburg of any wrongdoing while the referee’s union demanded a full apology, compensation, and a donation to an anti-racism charity from Chelsea.
A few Chelsea players apologised to Clattenburg but not Mikel, leaving the 45-year-old with a bad feeling that still lingers today.
Still disappointed with the conduct of the former Super Eagles skipper, Clattenburg, named Mikel among the five most annoying players he’s officiated.
“I have picked Mikel because of the incident during a Chelsea v Manchester United match in 2012 when he accused me of making a racist comment, which was not right and I was later cleared by the FA,” Clattenburg wrote in the Daily Mail.
“He has never apologised, and that is disappointing because it could have ruined my life. I fell out of love with refereeing for a while after that but couldn’t quit because I had a family to support and no other career to pursue.
“Mikel only heard the allegation from his teammate Ramires, who did not speak English. Other Chelsea players have since apologised but nothing from Mikel.
“He had the chance to say sorry and speak to me about it during a Nigeria friendly in the United States before the World Cup in 2014, and I would have welcomed that, but nothing, sadly.”
Clattenburg considers four other players to be equally annoying to officiate, including Portugal’s Pepe, Craig Bellamy, Roy Keane, and Jens Lehmann.