Thursday, July 01, 2010

FIFA Must Come Out of the Stone Age

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, came up with this gem: "Something has to be changed." This, in the wake of outrageous calls by referees that cast a dark shadow over the 2010 World Cup Soccer matches (England-Germany, Mexico- Argentina, to name only two). This would be the understatement of the year, had it not been so maddeningly infuriating.

The dynamics of a soccer game can turn on a dime. A blown call, and suddenly the momentum shifts, with one team, rather than the other, ascendant. Nothing demoralizes players than to see a legitimate goal disallowed or a non-goal allowed.

Since bad calls by referees have been plaguing the greatest sporting event on earth for decades, you would think that FIFA would have waken up to reality and bring technology to the rescue. But no! Instead, you hear asinine statements by officials, coaches, commentators and even some players that "Errors by referees are part of soccer. It's what makes the game unpredictably exciting!"

Try telling it to the victimized teams and their fans. We get to see this truly world-wide phenomenon every four years. To see its luster dimmed because of errors by officials is unacceptable.

At the very least, goal-line technology must be instituted starting 2114. If the ball crosses the goal-line, it's a goal. Can anything be simpler than that? Technology can settle the question definitively, as it does in ice hockey. Hasn't Mr. Blatter ever been to an ice-hockey game?

But even more than goal-line technology, FIFA should institute video replays to settle the toughest calls. That's only fair. Viewers get to see instant replays of what has occurred on the pitch, so why not referees?

There's a reason why FIFA honchos have been resistant to change. It has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with human nature. This is the FIFA president's and his associates' moment in the sun. The whole world is watching what they do and how they react. Why not drag it out for maximum exposure?

But change is inevitable. Technology will make soccer more just and fair. It will redeem worthy efforts and break less hearts. It will complement the human drama and make the beautiful game even more beautiful. Embrace it, FIFA, and come out of your stone-age mentality.

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