Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's wrong with Graham Polls of the world?

It has been almost three weeks of non-stop breathtaking action from Germany, and finally a much needed break for all sweaty souls around the globe. This is by far one of the best World Cups ever, although the officiating charade continues at an alarming regularity.

In case you missed, FIFA has shown red cards to the whistle blowers who stood apart from the rest of the pack. The talented Englishman Mr. Graham Poll and Russian Mr. Valentin Ivanov, whose whistle-blow jobs are now a part of football folklore, were sent off to catch their home bound flights after receiving the FIFA dubious distinction awards. There have been unconfirmed reports of tears rolling down the eyes of the FIFA president Sepp Blatter watching them leave. Heartbreaking.

We will miss the fine protectors of fair play.

In a related note, Germany's Markus Merk who awarded that feather touch penalty for Ghana against the US has been retained and likely to be seen on the field again at some point in the tournament.

I will admit, I was kinda worn out by watching all the catch-me-if-you-can superstars and some nonsensical spineless pieces of officiating that would fit anywhere between comical and blasphemous.

Look, referees are humans and do mistakes. It has always been a part of the game, and will continue to do so. And for every game played there will always be a side, fuming, and another, smiling end to end.

The truth is, every team has been a victim of poor officiating. And the beneficiary of poor officiating. What goes around comes around.

FIFA has laid down the rules of fair play and the officials are asked to follow them. While following the rules with eyes closed is one option, following the same goddamn rules with more sensitivity and contextual merits is the one more appropriate.

As a case to the point, the game between Ukraine and Switzerland saw 45 fouls committed and only one yellow card shown. Compare to the one between Portugal and Holland: only 25 fouls, but 16 yellow and 4 red cards.

I understand it's a difficult situation for the referees to find that elusive balance to maintain the flow of the game, yet also punish the violators of fair play and make decisions within nanoseconds without the benefit of technology to correct erroneous calls.

People have suggested to use video replays for controversial foul calls and goal-line technology to determine whether the ball has crossed the goal line or not. An obvious problem is that they would inevitably slow down the game and goal-line technology — tried and tested by FIFA — could never work with 100% efficiency.

Nevertheless, FIFA cannot shy away from it's responsibility to help the referees to make better decisions on the field. So far FIFA has steadfastly refused to embrace technology and Sepp Blatter, insists that it will take away the human factor of the game:
Football must be keep its human face, and its human errors. As soon as we use technology to decide what is wrong and what is right, then football would lose its emotion and passion, and it would not be the game of the people.
I tend to agree with him. It would be foolish to allow the game hijacked by robotic loonies because this is a game of the people for the people and by the people. We are better off keeping that way.

Having said that, FIFA should strive to find ways — sooner the better — for the sake of the game and all fairness to the competing teams, to punish the perpetrators who blatantly and shamelessly make a mockery of FIFA's much trumpeted fair play campaign.

Perhaps use of technology in a limited fashion might be helpful. There's no requirement to interfere with the game while it is on, and no reason to rescind game time decisions by the referee. However, to make sure that no genuine violators have gotten away, FIFA , after reviewing the game replays, can impose further sanctions. This will make sure the human factor stays in the game and also guarantees the culprits missed by the referees were taken to task. This can also be applied during half-time breaks.

I wonder people who got a taste of how it is like to be on the wrong side of referee's decision has to say if the technology is made available even with a limited scope, because blame-it-on-the-referees has always been a perennial favorite of the coaches around the world in every major sport to take the heat off themselves.

I am not defending the officials, who must be penalized for their screw ups. But come to think about it, who's here to be blamed? Really?

Why not take care of the cheating players first before you take the pot shots at officiating?

As a matter of fact, the players should be held more accountable because it is their primary responsibility to stay honest to the game. Equally disturbing is that these millionaire babies, idols of millions of budding footballers around the world, worshipped for their mesmerizing skills also happen to be the habitual cheaters for whom conning the referees are the acts of sublime artistry.

If there was ever any doubt why Argentinia native Manu Ginobili is always a step ahead of the home grown floppers, the World Cup has put unsettled minds to rest.



At 6:10 PM, Anonymous QbiT said...

I take it all back.

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even the bit about whistle-bow jobs?

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We shall overcome!


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