John Langenus

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John Langenus
John Langenus The football arbitrator a judging first final of the World championships 1930 year.jpg
Born John L Langenus
(1891-12-08)8 December 1891
Berchem, Belgium
Died 1 October 1952(1952-10-01) (aged 60)
Other names Jean Langenus
Johannes Langenus
Julian Langenus
Occupation Association football referee
Known for FIFA World Cup Final, 1930

John L. Langenus[1] (born 8 December 1891,[2] Berchem, Belgium;[3] died 1 October 1952[2]) was a Belgian football referee, who officiated for FIFA in three World Cup competitions, including the first ever Final match in 1930.

Life and career

Contrary to some sources, Langenus's parents actually gave him an Anglicised Christian name, rather than call him "Jean".[4]

Langenus first undertook his refereeing exam only to fail it when he wrongly answered a question posed by examiners. The question asked of him was: "What is the correct procedure if the ball strikes a low-flying plane?". Langenus did not answer and failed the exam.[3]

1928 Summer Olympics

Langenus was selected to officiate at the 1928 Summer Olympics, and he refereed the first round match on 30 May 1928 at the Olympisch Stadion, where Uruguay beat the Netherlands by 2–0 in front of 40,000 people, and confirmed their place in the quarter-finals. He was then given the honour of controlling the Bronze Medal game, at the same venue on 10 June 1928, between Italy and Egypt, when the African side were soundly beaten by 11 goals to 3 (Schiavio, Banchero and Magnozzi all scored hat-tricks for the winning side).[1]

1930 World Cup

In the 1930 FIFA World Cup, held in Uruguay and the first ever to be staged, Langenus handled four matches as referee,[5] plus two as linesman.[6] Two "Group" matches played under his stewardship were followed by the first semi-final between Argentina and the United States on 26 July 1930, which finished 6–1 to the South American side.[7] Langenus officiated all his matches "whatever the heat, in cap and plus-fours". The Americans played 80 minutes of the game "with one player missing (broken leg after 10 minutes)" - "substitutes weren't allowed, so the United States played on with only 10 men".[8] There was also an incident involving one of the US medical staff, after Langenus had given a foul against one of the American players; "the team's medical attendant raced, bellicose, on to the field, to berate Langenus. Having had his say, he flung his box of medicines to the ground, the box burst open, various bottles smashed, including one full of chloroform, and its fumes rose to overpower the American. He was helped from the field."[8]

He then received the notable honour of controlling the Final, on 30 July 1930 at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. The home country Uruguay met Argentina, and feelings were running high even before the match; the "big, tough, ruthless centre half"[9] "Argentinian Luis Monti received a death threat" and the referee "demanded a quick escape route plan to get back to his ship". It was Langenus who defused another potentially serious diplomatic issue when he suggested that, instead of choosing a match ball from either the hosts or the challengers (which was being hotly contested before the event), they use one ball in the first half of the Final, and switch to the other team's ball in the second half. This solution was accepted by both sides.[10] Despite all this, "Langenus refereed skilfully, completely unfazed by the masses filling the ... Stadium ... to bursting point" during the game,[11] which finished 4-2 to the hosts, even though "one of the game's most controversial incidents" was the allowing of the first Argentine goal, which some observers took to be offside.[12]

1934 World Cup

In the 1934 World Cup Finals, hosted by Italy, Langenus was involved in only one game, the first round match between Czechoslovakia and Romania at the Stadio Littorio in Trieste on 27 May 1934, which he refereed, and it ended in a 2–1 Czech win.[13]

1938 World Cup

The only sanction of any kind which John Langenus had to issue in all his matches in charge during three World Cups was the dismissal of Germany's Hans Pesser in the 6th minute of extra time[14] during a first round match in the 1938 competition against Switzerland in the Parc des Princes, Paris, France, on 4 June 1938. After 120 minutes of play, the scoreline remained 1–1, and had to be settled by a replay five days later, the Swiss triumphing 4–2 (though Langenus did not handle the decider).[15]

On 19 June 1938, at the Parc de Lescure in Bordeaux, Langenus received his second great career honour, having been chosen to oversee the third place playoff between Brazil and Sweden.[16] By resting their tournament top scorer, Leônidas, in the semi-final, Brazil may have caused their own eventual participation in the lesser match instead of gracing the Final as expected. Leônidas scored twice for Brazil, in a 4–2 victory, to help secure third spot.[17]

Later career

Langenus later wrote three books; an autobiography, "Whistling in the World", and two other football-related works of non-fiction.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Statistical info (plus Langenus' middle initial "L"): statistical website. Retrieved on 18 March 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Birth and death dates: Weltfuß (German) website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Place of birth, plus other biography: (Dutch) website. Retrieved on 18 March 2008.
  4. Anglicised Christian name: Google Book Search preview of "Moving with the Ball: The Migration of Professional Footballers" (footnote 49, page 24), Pierre Lanfranchi & Matthew Taylor, 2001, ISBN 1-85973-307-7. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  5. Four matches, 1930 World Cup Finals: Weltfuß (German) website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  6. Linesman twice, 1930 World Cup Finals: Weltfuß (German) website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  7. Argentina v. United States, 1930 World Cup semi-final: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Incident in 1930 World Cup semi-final, Argentina v. United States: sports writer Brian Glanville, quoted by the Washington Post website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  9. "Was Monti a coward?" (Argentinian centre half): Sportstar - Brian Glanville's newspaper column at The Hindu website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  10. Pre-match tensions, 1930 World Cup Final: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  11. On Langenus' performance in the 1930 World Cup Final: PDF version of FIFA's Fanfest magazine (page 5). Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  12. Uruguay 4 Argentina 2, 1930 World Cup Final: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  13. Czechoslovakia v.Romania, round 1, 1934 World Cup Finals: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  14. 96th minute sending-off, Hans Pesser of Germany v. Switzerland: OiRef! statistical website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  15. German player off, Germany v. Switzerland, round 1, 1938 World Cup Finals: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  16. Brazil v. Sweden, 3rd/4th place playoff, 1938 World Cup Finals: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
  17. Leonidas goals help secure third place for Brazil, 1930 World Cup Finals playoff: website. Retrieved on 6 March 2008.
Preceded by
no previous competition
FIFA World Cup final match referees
Belgium John Langenus
Succeeded by
Sweden Ivan Eklind