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It was an incident that has probably become more famous than the match itself.

As Indonesian referee Hardjowasito Sudarso pointed to the penalty spot for the second time that afternoon, in another highly dubious decision, a sixth former by the name of John Christiansen ran onto Mt Smart Stadium and threw a can of soft-drink at the referee.

It's not known what happened to the soft drink and whether it was still drinkable but Christiansen's actions threatened to end the crucial World Cup qualifying match between the All Whites and Kuwait.

Sudarso bustled his way to the sideline, complained about the lack of security and announced he was calling off the game.

That was when Charlie Dempsey, who was known throughout his 87 years as a master bluffer, stepped in.

"If you call this game off, it's the last game you will referee," Dempsey recalled in his autobiography The Dempsey Years. "He looked at my Fifa badge - he had no idea what my position was - and I added: 'I'm warning you. Call this game off and you have had it.'

"I had no authority to say that because I was not the match inspector. But I had to bluff it."

It was just as well he did. If the game had been abandoned, Kuwait would have been awarded the game by a margin of 2-0 (the game ended 2-1 in Kuwait's favour) and the All Whites wouldn't have made it to Spain.

All Whites skipper Steve Sumner played a number of memorable games in that famous World Cup campaign but he still vividly recalls what happened that day at Mt Smart Stadium.

After all, it was his arm the ball hit for the first penalty.

"It was ball to arm," he said. "Someone cleared the ball in our box and it hit me on the arm. There was no intent on my part."

Goalkeeper Richard Wilson saved the penalty to exact some justice but it wasn't long before Sudarso was at it again, this time insisting John Hill had also handled in the box.

"Hiller turned his back and it hit him on the back of the arm," Sumner said. "We were shocked and surprised [at the decision].

"Back then we accepted things a little easier than players do now. I remember thinking at the time that this referee was an officious bloke interpreting things a little differently."

Others were less diplomatic. As rumours of bribes and backhanders circulated, All Whites assistant coach Kevin Fallon couldn't hold his tongue and let rip with "a few choice words" for Sudarso's benefit.

Dempsey also had his doubts. "There were a lot of people who said the referee must have been bribed, and there was a lot of that in Asian football at the time. I don't say he was bribed, but what did concern me was the confident way the Kuwaiti sheik Al Sabah was talking before the game and at halftime. It had best be left at that."

It wasn't the end for Christiansen. His actions were cheered by many at a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium but authorities took a dim view and punished him with three months periodic detention.

Given the lack of remorse he was reported to have shown, it was probably worth it.

Kuwait play Auckland City at Kiwitea St on Tuesday night and Waitakere United at Trusts Stadium on Friday night.