IN THE SUMMER OF 1962, during the FIFA World Cup in Chile, the English referee Ken Aston officiates one of the most violent football matches ever—now often called the “Battle of Santiago.” The match, which was between Chile and Italy, saw some players aiming to break each other’s necks, and required police intervention on three separate instances. Chile won the match 2-0. Aston later said that he “wasn’t reffing a football match” that day, but rather acting as “an umpire in military manoeuvres.”
Born in 1915, Aston became a referee in 1936 and officiated matches until the Second World War broke out. Then, he joined the Royal Artillery and was seconded to the Indian Army, where he was part of the vanguard that entered Singapore. He served on the Changi War Trials Commission and left the army as a lieutenant colonel.
Aston returned to refereeing after the war. In 1946, he became the first to wear the now standard referee uniform—black with white trim—in English League Football. He changed the colour of linesman’s flags the following year, making them bright yellow and easier to spot. Aston never officiated at a World Cup following the Battle of Santiago, but was put in charge of World Cup referees in 1966, 1970 and 1974.
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