World Cup referees under fire as FIFA evades calls for new technology

Horribly botched calls by World Cup referees changed the tenor of both the England vs Germany and the Mexico vs Argentina matches yesterday. Yet soccer's governing body, FIFA, remains resolute in its aversion to instant replay.

Darren Staples/Reuters
England's coach Fabio Capello blamed the referee's bad call for England's loss during a news conference yesterday at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg, South Africa

OK, it’s getting ridiculous now. The World Cup referees have been so atrocious that we can’t keep up with all their bad calls.

Even beyond the dozens of controversial decisions that you’d expect in any tournament, this year a number of plainly wrong calls have been pivotal to the outcome of key games.

STORY: Top five refereeing gaffes of the 2010 World Cup

IN PICTURES: Top 2010 World Cup controversies

The most obvious example is probably the would-be game-winning US goal against Slovenia that Malian referee Koman Coulibaly voided for reasons even he doesn’t know.

Yesterday, however, the officials outdid themselves. And the Monitor could not keep pace with them.

Just 10 minutes after posting a piece on the top five referee gaffes in this World Cup – which was inspired by the instantly infamous England goal that the officials missed just before halftime in the England vs. Germany game – we had to update the list.

The referee in the Mexico-Argentina game missed a blatant offsides call against Argentine striker Carlos Tevez and allowed his goal to stand.

The Mexican players nearly lynched the linesman for missing that call, which changed the tenor of the game. And it made No. 4 on our list.

The most painful thing about all these instances is that the players, fans, and officials can just look up to the jumbo TVs in the stadium and watch the bad call being played over and over again by the broadcasters.

But the refs can’t change the call. Not in soccer.

How could that be, in 2010? What with all the newfangled equipment such as the Hawk-Eye computer system used to judge line calls in tennis or even just simple instant replay?

Here’s what Sepp Blatter, the head of soccer’s ruling body, FIFA, had to say on March 11: "If play were to be stopped to take a decision, it would break up the rhythm of the game and possibly deny a team the opportunity to score a goal. It would also not make sense to stop play every two minutes to review a decision, as this would go against the natural dynamism of the game."

Mr. Blatter’s statement epitomizes the view of soccer purists who insist that “the beautiful game” not be sullied by anything that disrupts its natural ebb and flow.

That concern is fair enough for a game as fluid as soccer. But if diva dives and fake injuries are routinely allowed to suck the life out of decent matches, why not take a moment to review a controversial game-changing call?

And what does FIFA have against technology?

After yesterday’s controversies, the international sporting body is facing increased pressure to adapt to the modern era the way most other sports have long since done.

At its daily briefing today, FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said it was "obviously not the place" to discuss the use of modern technology to mitigate referee error.

He also said that the replaying of World Cup match action on stadium giant screens "should not happen," and that FIFA will crack down on it.


How is it possible that FIFA, a world body based in Zurich, Switzerland, has such a Talibanesque policy?

Yesterday’s drama and today’s comments from FIFA would be farcical if players, fans, and entire nations didn’t take the World Cup so seriously.

But they do. And they deserve better.

IN PICTURES: Top 2010 World Cup controversies

IN PICTURES: 10 World Cup players to watch

World Cup 101:

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