World Cup facing controversies over inception of technology

Yeina Yi

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FIFA, the international soccer football governing body, needs to get past its ancient ways and install the use of technology for refereeing.

On June 27, millions of viewers from all over the world witnessed two quite astonishing matches: Germany vs. England and Argentina vs. Mexico. Both matches presented probably two of the most horrible calls from referees in the World Cup history.

One happened when the goal of Frank Lampard, England’s midfielder, was denied by referee Jorge Larrionda in the first half. The other one was when Argentina was given a 1-0 lead against Mexico by referee Roberto Rosetti when Carlos Tevez scored in the first half, even though he was clearly offside. The matches ended with Germany and Argentina moving on to quarterfinals.
The response was instant. A number of soccer fans from all around the world rose up demanding modern technology as a solution for bad refereeing.

In recent years, FIFA has resisted the use of technology for refereeing. On June 29, in a roundtable with the news media, Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, apologized to England and Mexico for the referee errors and took the idea of high-tech solutions into consideration, saying “something has to be changed.”

According to FIFAs document “Laws of the Game 2010/2011,” one referee and two assistant referees are assigned for a match. The main referee controls the match on the field in cooperation with two assistant referees who patrol one sideline each. On the each sideline, assistant referees indicate entitlement of a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in and also an offside position. For approximately 90 minutes, referees have to catch every single moment of the game. Therefore, they are required to be in shape and be as fast and sharp as actual players. When there are 22 players on the field and only one referee, not everything will go perfectly. It is for reasons like this that the technology should be used.

The main controversies revolve around the monitoring of the goal-line and of the offside position. Those two are the ones that can change the result. In fact, both England and Mexico, the victims of bad calls, started to lose their concentration and spirit after the fatal calls regarding goal-line and an offside position. Even though it has been proven that referee calls are vital and influential to a match, FIFA has insisted that refereeing errors are just part of the sport.

The credibility of soccer is at stake. In the match between Germany and England, both the main referee and the assistant referee didn’t catch the ball landing across the goal-line whereas all the players and people in the stadium saw it. Even Germany coach Joachim Loew admitted that the ball should have been given as a goal after the match finished. In this World Cup, so far there have been about ten crucial refereeing mistakes regarding yellow/red cards, offside positions and penalty kicks. According to Associated Press, FIFpro, the worldwide representative organization for all professional soccer players, issued a statement criticizing all the refereeing errors shown in this World Cup and claiming that FIFA should offer referees technical assistance.

“The entire football world once again reacted with disbelief to FIFA’s stubborn insistence that technology does not belong in football,” FIFPro said.

For years, FIFA has stuck to its position that soccer should remain with errors and be left to “a man, not a machine.” In March, the president Blatter stated that the cost of application of technologies could be so expensive that it would be not affordable in a global level. In contrast to FIFA’s position for technology, other sports like hockey, baseball, and American football have adopted video replay and other technical devices for accurate refereeing. Besides, along with highly developed technology, soccer has changed a lot. From training to producing balls, it’s hard to find one thing in soccer that is not supported by technology. Claiming that application of simple video review is unaffordable would be illogical. The World Cup is the highest level tournament, which should be held with the fairest refereeing. The world’s demand is simple. Just make sure that balls that cross the goal-line are called to be goals, and balls from players who are offside are not called goals.

The good news is that FIFA has started to accept the reality they are facing. At the roundtable with news media on June 29, Blatter said he would consider some kind of technology at least for monitoring goal-line such as video replay or an electronic chip inside the ball. Even if FIFA makes a final decision of applying the technology solution now, it will be too late to be in operation in this World Cup, but it will certainly make a positive progress for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Yes, something has to be changed.
 

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