Chile vs Italy’s match in 1962, also known as “The Battle of Santiago”, is considered the nastiest match ever and it was refereed by Ken Aston.  Chile and Italy collided on the second group, and they clashed on the second date, by then, an Italian paper had made a note (a rough one, actually) putting down Chile as a country, on the Bologna’s newspaper “Il Resto del Carlino”.

By the date of the match, a Chelean big newspaper, “El Mercurio”, had already read the note, reproduced it and distributed it, making Cheleans very aware of the Italians’ thoughts on their country. Needless to say, they didn’t like it. It was not the best year for Chile, you see, a year before the world cup, a tremendous earthquake had shaken Chile, and the country had made an enormous effort to put the world cup forward despite the quake so they could give a good image to the whole world.  That Italian note had caused a colossal displeasure among Cheleans.

A detailed view of the Hawk-Eye camera-based system ahead the international friendly match between England and Belgium at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2012 in London.

Little did referee Aston knew before the match started, that he was going to referee an infamous battle. He tried to appease the players, but they didn’t understand him, and he was forced to expel two Italian players. It was an all-around failure, and he had to leave the world cup, frustrated.

FIFA World Cup England 66’

Four years had passed, and referee Aston was already retired, now being a member of the FIFA Referee Commission.  He witnessed the famous match between England and Argentina, in which the German referee Kreitlein expelled Rattin, for his constant protesting.  That caused turmoil.  Rattlin was warned, according to the referee, twice before being expelled.

But Rattin, only spoke Spanish, how could he know what referee Kreitlein was saying?  Aston himself, who had been caught between Italians and Cheleans in the same situation, unable to warn the players, got down into the field to mediate between them; back then English wasn’t as understood as it is now.

The following morning, while being on his office in Wembley, Jackie Charlton,  English former footballer and manager who played as a defender called him on the phone, a newspaper stated that he and his brother Bobby had been warned of their behaviour.  They didn’t know this and wanted clarification.

Aston later went home thinking about the necessity of creating an easy, international, fool-proof system that allowed both players and referees know (and also the spectators) when a player got warned or admonished so no doubts would arise and the language barrier could be broken.

The thought that it had to be as easy as a traffic light, crossed his mind, while stopped at a traffic light on Kensington, he thought it would be impossible to put a traffic light on the field, but should be it should be as easily understood anyway. Maybe even using something like yellow for prevention and red as prohibition…

The New Valkyrie

When Aston arrived home, he told his wife, Hilda, all of his worries, after the short conversation, he proceeded to read his paper. A little later that evening, Hilda showed up.  She had cut to pieces of cardboard, a yellow one and a red one and showed them to him telling him what if the referees carried those on their pockets, having the yellow as a warning and the red one for expelling badly behaved players.

Aston felt happy with the idea and after many discussions and some trials, 1970 witnessed the birth of the card system, being the first one given on the inaugural match, Mexico-URSS, on may 31, 1970, given by German referee Tschenscher to the soviet Astiani, on the minute 27 of the match.