Monday, July 19, 2010

Missing Ronaldinho and other necessary features of the World Cup

By Siesta-friendly

Dunga maybe to blame for the absence of Ronaldinho (and perhaps much of the fun and flair) at World Cup 2010 in South Africa.  But there are more serious aspects of football that should have been present at the 3rd World Cup of the 21st century.

Video and electronics technology

It’s used in the Olympics, grand slam tennis, streets, banks, convenience stores … why not in football?

In the words of FIFA (aka Sepp Blatter, the overlord of football) as of March 2010, here are the 5 main reasons why FIFA doesn’t want technology in football: [1]

  1. “The universality of the game: one of the main objectives of FIFA is to protect the universality of the game of association football. This means that the game must be played in the same way no matter where you are in the world. If you are coaching a group of teenagers in any small town around the world, they will be playing with the same rules as the professional players they see on TV.”
In other words, if players can dive left and right all over the world unseen by referees then the same should be allowed to happen as well at the World Cup.  How universally fair.

And so we have to suffer antics like Spain’s Fernando Torres’ below who, after being apparently clipped by his own foot stays, down long enough for the ref to see him and figure that the fall was due to a foul.  Since it was a “foul” in front of the penalty box, the ref deemed it worthy of a red card against Chile’s Marco Estrada.

Denying that there is a world of difference between football at World Cup level and football-on-the-streets level makes no sense. The quality of play at the World Cup is not the same as on any other level (even the famed Spanish Primera Liga, Italy’s Serie A or the English Premier League); the size of the pitch is not the same for all levels of football; even FIFA acknowledges that the World Cup is a big deal by having countries from all over the world compete against each other, by opening bids for countries to host the event, soliciting multinationals to bid for multi-billion dollar franchise rights, allowing it to happen only once every four years and requiring a newly created world cup ball each time.  Do any of these happen at the local level? Is there a trophy locked inside a customized Louis Vuitton case for each tournament played around the world?

  1. “The human aspect: no matter which technology is applied, at the end of the day a decision will have to be taken by a human being.”
If there is a way to have accurate and clear officiating, who cares if the referee becomes redundant?

  1. “The financial aspect: the application of modern technologies can be very costly, and therefore not applicable on a global level.”
FIFA’s concern about money for the game seems hypocritical after inaugurating this year its $196M new headquarters in Zurich.  FIFA can find funds for a new headquarters with “five underground levels, a fitness centre, meditation room, geographically themed parks and a full-size international football pitch” but shoots down proposals to raise the quality of the officiating (and consequently, the game) for lack of funds.

FIFA can give any organization (or country) a complete course on how to earn billions from media and product franchising.  It is hard to believe it cannot overcome any funding problems especially if it is for the development of the game.

  1. “The extended use of technology: the question has already been raised: if the IFAB had approved goal-line technology, what would prevent the approval of technology for other aspects of the game? Every decision in every area of the pitch would soon be questioned.” 
Fair play should be achieved not just at the goal line but everywhere on the pitch the game is played. Technology to spot dives, handballs and other infractions helps complete the essence of fair play.

Like the officials during the Argentina-Mexico match, goal-line technology would also not have detected Argentinian Carlos Tevez’s offside position just before his goal against Mexico.


  1. The nature of the game: association football is a dynamic game that cannot be stopped in order to review a decision. 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."
On the contrary, a lot of players’ acting that delays the game will be avoided if they knew their faking or sneaky actions could merit them a yellow or red card once found out via instant replay.

Had appeal for video replay been allowed Brazil for the red card given to Kaka, the officials would have seen that Kaka’s warding off Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita  on the latter’s chest was not the vicious facial attack that Keita faked it was.

There’s too much at stake at the World Cup that much care and attention should be given to count every legal goal and every infraction made.  One can’t help imagining FIFA focusing more on refining media and merchandising franchises for the good of FIFA than on refining the game’s rules for the good of the sport.

Additional referees

The 3 officials looking after the play on the pitch have to see everything occurring between 22 players in an area between 90-120 meters long and 45-90 meters wide.  3 officials have long been insufficient except only to FIFA.  At the very least, there should be additional officials posted near each goal post where most of the action occurs and remain unseen by the 3 officials. 

Much of that pushing and tugging would be prevented by the additional goal post referee.  There have been many handballs, dives and goals that were not seen by the 3 officials in this 2010 world cup alone.

There’s the now famous double handball by Brazil’s Luis Fabiano just before he kicked the ball into Ivory Coast’s net, totally unseen by any official.

It seems impossible that the officials missed seeing Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany (as the ball hit the top bar then the ground then the top bar again then back out into the pitch) but that’s exactly what happened.  A goal post official would likely have seen and counted the possible game-changing goal.  Goal-line technology could have also helped.


The rule in basketball of counting the point as if the ball went in when the ball is interfered with on its obvious way into the basket should be allowed to apply in football. Take the case of Uruguayan Luis Suarez during the match between Ghana and Uruguay when he knowingly and illegally used his hands to block the clear shot-on-goal by Dominic Adiyiah during the dying seconds of the match.  Sending off Suarez and allowing a penalty kick instead of conceding the goal point was unfair.  To top if off, Mr Suarez was proud to have done what he did as the denied goal allowed Uruguay to advance to the next round (while eliminating Ghana).  The lack of a goaltending rule condones cheating as well as pride in cheating.

Traditional ball
Another example of FIFA’s hypocritical attitude is having a newly-designed ball for each world cup while continuing to cite universality in football (“that the game must be played in the same way no matter where you are in the world.”)  Who plays with the Jabulani at the local level? 

And why introduce a new ball a mere 6 months prior to the tournament?  Use of the ball during the almost 3-year qualification process would have at least helped the players truly get used to it especially since criticisms about the ball have been heard from strikers and keepers and even NASA

The knuckle ball effect produced by the lightweight, uniquely round and speedy Jabulani may have caused the low goal tally of 145 goals in 64 matches or an average of 2.27 per game, the second worst ever after 2.21 in Italy in 1990.

At the end of the world cup, it wasn’t who played or didn’t play which got most people talking. Next to Spain’s win and a certain mollusk’s accuracy, the poor officiating marked the event like never before. Insuring fairness is, pardon the pun, a goal worth working for in the World Cup.

[1]  "FIFA’s position on technology in football". (2010, March 11). Retrieved from


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