You would have thought that with all the refereeing mistakes that are allowing unfair goals to be scored, many in major games, FIFA would have decided to use goal-line technology and video replays to help decrease the gaffes.
But instead, FIFA has decided not to use any technology at all. In essence, it is allowing referees to continue to blow big plays.
FIFA has been under increasing pressure to use some form of technology to eliminate mistakes which are highlighted by TV replays. The most recent high-profile case was the handball by France striker Thierry Henry that might well have put France instead of the Republic of Ireland into this summer s World Cup.
And just hours after FIFA s decision, Birmingham had a headed goal disallowed in its 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Portsmouth, despite replays clearly showing the ball crossed the line before it was blocked.
FIFA s defense of such bloopers: Technology should not enter into the game; let s keep the game of football as it is; we must appreciate the human side of the game, the debate, the controversy.
What kind of an argument is that? When TV was yet advanced in slow motion, replays and plays captured from different angles, referees could be pardoned for not getting it right. The most famous casualty of using just the naked eye must be Geoffrey Hurst s 1966 World Cup shot that hit the West German crossbar. The referee called it a goal but to this day the Germans insist the ball did not cross the line.
However, what s the excuse today? Modern-day television methods would have spotted Henry s handball, seen the Birmingham slip-up, caught Maradona s Hand of God against England, and given Nigeria its disallowed penalty shootout goal in the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations. and so on and so forth.
Replays expose refereeing mistakes in embarrassing ways. It seems extraordinary that all six billion people on the planet saw Henry s handball except the referee and his two assistants – and they were on the field. It is high time FIFA admits that referees by themselves cannot spot all infractions, especially those in crowded penalty boxes.
And their assistants, whose prime responsibility is to see a ball cross the goal-line, are inexplicably unable to pick up balls which have crossed the line by a country mile. The offside, another of the assistants domain, cannot be adjudged properly by one person looking at the players and the ball at the same time: either this or that, not both at once.
They all need technological assistance, which is made available in, among other sports, tennis and cricket. It s amazing that up until today soccer refs are not allowed to look at video replays to double check a debatable play even though a quick look at a sideline monitor would solve big problems. To those who believe this would slow down the game, it would only a take a few seconds, a far shorter time than what an injured player requires for treatment on the field. The situation would be speeded up by the headsets worn by the referee and his assistants. Whoever is closest to the monitor can see the play, then transmit his decision to the others.
As for balls that cross or do not cross the goal-line, FIFA is beginning to try two extra assistant referees stationed at each end but most players say they have seen no improvement in decision-making. A chip inside a ball that would buzz, light up green or shout GOAL if a ball has crossed the line would provide irrefutable evidence.
Fans and football players are up in arms over refereeing foul-ups and surveys consistently show they are pushing for FIFA to bring in technology. Mind you, slow motion replays will not lay all arguments to rest. Replays are not foolproof. There are incidents that replays cannot make irrevocable one way or the other. They are debated among millions and remain inconclusive.
Still, hi-tech serves purposes; one should be accuracy, as much as possible, in sports where major championships and big money are on the line. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called for a system which is accurate but doesn t disrupt the flow of the game. If that can t be found, Blatter hopes to keep the human element in the game, mistakes et al. That won t do. Players and fans have had enough of games being blighted by incorrect decisions over goals.
The ultimate aim of football is scoring goals, and there s no greater injustice than when you have scored and it s not allowed, or you ve scored illegally and it is allowed, because a referee didn t see it.