Soccer referee auctions Haaland autographed cards to raise money for autism charity

By Jack Owens April 15, 2021
When a soccer referee chased down the star of the Borussia Dortmund to get his autograph after a game, many eyebrows were raised. But when the autographed cards were auctioned to raise money for an autism charity, the seemingly selfish act was quickly realized to be just the opposite.

After a soccer match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, the play that had fans shocked did not occur during the game. Instead, the attention was directed at referee Octavian Sovre for asking Dortmund star Erling Haaland to autograph his red and yellow cards.

But a statement from a Romanian therapy center that helps autistic people reveals that there were some good intentions behind Octavian Sovre’s eyebrow-raising move.

The signed cards were donated to the SOS Autism Bihor center and Simona Zlibut, who oversees a therapy center set up by parents, said they will be auctioned later this month on Facebook.

“The red and yellow signed cards which Octavian donated to our SOS Autism Bihor center will be used for a noble cause,” Zlibut told The Guardian.

Zlibut, who has a 21-year-old daughter with autism, says the center runs on donations.

“The state gives me for my daughter 500 lei [$120.96] per month,” Zlibut continued. “One cannot imagine what I can we do with this meager sum … we, parents, rely on donations, we auction skirts, photographs, autographs, whatever we get, to make up for the huge shortfall.”

The center serves 30 autistic people below the age of 47, and to them, the money from the auction could change their lives.

“My little girl doesn’t know when to go to the bathroom, she cannot eat alone … costs are enormous,” Zlibut said.

While the donation is praised by many, and is sure to help those at the autism center, there are many critics of Sovre’s act, including UEFA chief refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti, who wrote to refereeing teams after the exchange was caught on camera.

“If you want to be respected as much as the players, why would you ask for their autograph or their shirt? Do they ask you for the same? This is simply unacceptable. This is a matter of dignity.”

Despite the controversial nature of the autographs, there is no denying that the money they raise will go a long way, and the good intentions behind them are certainly to be praised.