Bring on technology so we can stop blaming the poor referees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 July, 2006, 12:00am

A man known as a soccer referee makes what appears to be a mistake in judgment in front of billions of people. The world can see it, but he cannot and he will not change his mind. Play on. Everyone does except for the TV people, who play it back - again and again and again.

All around the world billions of people are watching this unrepentant man's mistake from myriad angles. There must be 30 or 40 TV cameras in the stadium, but none of them exist, nor matter for the man in charge of the game because, and get this, we cannot stop the flow.

It must flow because it is flow, don't you know, which makes soccer the beautiful game. Any attempts at beginning a discussion about the use of TV replays to help sort out the plethora of truly horrid referee calls during the World Cup are immediately shot down by purists of the beautiful and flowing game.

You are accused of being an American or, even worse, of thinking like an American. Just because your big American football league has instant replay challenges which can sometimes add half an hour to the game, it does not mean it will work for soccer, the game that has only one break at half-time and which flows endlessly, this beautiful game. In essence, leave our game alone.

OK, fine. Just stop this incessant whining about the refs and realise the world probably won't end tomorrow if we had a few replay challenges of controversial calls.

Obviously, you can't go overboard and challenge every call. But there are certainly a few pivotal calls which almost beg a second look. Just ask any Australian. Sure, they were punching above their weight in the second round against Italy, but they hung in gamely and to have it all end on a ridiculous call five minutes into stoppage time takes a lifetime to get over.

And, oh yeah, this thing called stoppage time, how exactly can we have something like that in soccer? I thought the game flowed endlessly. Well, flow is all relative, isn't it? When the Brazilian team are swarming up the pitch, rhythmically swaying to and fro, getting ready for the sexiest of kills, that is the type of pure flow that puts beauty into the beautiful game. But when Italy's Francesco Totti or France's Thierry Henry or virtually every player in the tournament is flopping and diving and whining and rolling over and over as if they are a hair from death, that's flow?

When the medical team comes out to load them on to a stretcher and take them over to the sidelines only to see them come prancing back almost miraculously a minute later, that's flow? And when the referee blows his whistle to chase down an offender and hand them either a yellow or red card, that's flow? No, that's garbage, all of it, and it's ruining the beautiful game.

The simple truth is the World Cup has become far, far too big for the Eurocentric poseurs running Fifa. The scope and magnitude of the event are beyond the management capability of president Sepp Blatter and his Paleozoic crew.

Blatter admits many of the referees have made some dubious decisions. He even publicly chastised a few, calling them out by name and proceeding to tell one and all how Fifa had to improve. Well that's nice Sepp, but who trained these referees in the first place?

Ah, never mind. While Blatter was falling into line like a puppet in his criticism of the referees, the head honcho of Germany 2006, Franz Beckenbauer, expressed his disgust at the way players are diving and faking injuries. 'It's extremely difficult for referees to do their job. The players aren't making it easy when they fall over,' he said. 'It's so exaggerated now - players simulating - we must protect the referees.'

Well at least somebody is trying to see the bigger picture.

How much money do you think a World Cup referee makes? I mean, officially makes? It isn't much. Yet, they get to decide the outcome of a game played by millionaires supporting a multibillion-dollar betting business. They are making very little to be the police, to enforce the rules. It's no surprise when some of them come up dirty and try to get paid in a big way as well. Make the job pay very well, train the best and brightest and you watch how quickly the standard will improve. Fifa already has a fair-play award; maybe the refs should have a fair-pay award as well. And stop fighting technology. It's called instant replay, not American replay. The Yanks might have invented it and subsequently overdosed on it, but in this day and age when the stakes are so ridiculously high, when the whole world is watching, it's a shame that underutilised technology and underpaid referees are grabbing the headlines.