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Ryan Bailey

Blatter must change his opinion of technology in football

Ryan Bailey
Dirty Tackle

A day that should have been dominated by the joyous spectacle of matches between fierce European and Latin American rivals has instead by dogged by controversy and a cry for a huge shake-up of the Beautiful Game.

England's dismal afternoon in Bloemfontein may have been much less dismal if Frank Lampard's lob goal was given against Germany. And in the late game, after starting strong, Mexico was enraged to concede a goal to a clearly offside Carlos Tevez. The situation was not helped by the fact that a replay of the incident was shown on the big screens at Soccer City - to avoid unrest among the crowd and players, replays of controversial incidents are usually prohibited. Both games would have undoubtedly taken a different course if the referee was given 10 seconds to take a glance at a video replay.

Sepp Blatter - whose competence as FIFA president has been called into question for over a decade - is a huge fan of keeping football "pure." In a press releases in March, the Swiss outlined his intention to keep those dirty unpure video replays out of the game:

"One of the main objectives of FIFA is to protect the universality of the game of association football. ... 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.

"No matter which technology is applied, at the end of the day a decision will have to be taken by a human being. This being the case, why remove the responsibility from the referee to give it to someone else?

"Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of our sport."

In an age where FIFA has happily rolled over and let commercialism change the professional game (changing start times to suit TV networks; extending halftime to 15 minutes to squeeze in more advertising; etc.) Blatter's most salient points seem rather outdated. He argues that the same rules should be applied at every level of the game, but why should the professional game suffer the same negative consequences of human error as kids playing in a park? American football and tennis have both successfully integrated technology into the higher echelons of the game - turning replays into entertaining spectacles in the process - so why can't soccer do the same?

Mr Blatter also feels uneasy about removing the responsibility from the referee - but this doesn't have to be the case. Why couldn't the referee go and watch a replay on a monitor and make a decision for himself, like they do in American football? Some may argue that this would break the flow of the game, but one only needs to look at the extended protests of the Mexicans on Sunday to see that the delay would have been much shorter (and less heated) with a quick video replay.

Just imagine how different this tournament would have been if teams could challenge goals and get refs to view replays - the U.S. would have had a winner against Slovenia. Frank Lampard might have saved the graces of the English, and the blushes of Blatter himself, who watched from the stands as his officials made the wrong call. And Ireland might have been in South Africa instead of France!

Will today be the start of a sea change toward technology in the game? Sepp, we're waiting for your next move ...

Image: Getty

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