Anger, fear and paranoia abound as blatantly horrible referee mistakes pile up like the massive amounts of cash being generated by the 2010 World Cup. The two most recent incidents - Frank Lampard's disregarded goal against Germany and Carlos Tevez's miles offside opening score against Mexico - were so bad that they go beyond mere errors in judgment and have some considering more sinister puppeteering at work.
And the justification of that is growing. Already resolute in their anti-technology/instant replay stubbornness, FIFA is now trying to ensure there is no evidence against referee rulings inside the stadiums, as there was when Tevez's offside goal was shown on Soccer City's big screens, which caused Mexican players to intensify their protests. From the AP:
FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said Monday that replaying the incident was “a clear mistake.”
“This will be corrected and we will have a closer look into that,” Maingot told a news conference Monday. “We will work on this and be a bit more, I would say, tight on this for the games to be played.”
Maingot said the screens were used to broadcast a FIFA “infotainment program” to fans before the match and could be used to replay some match action.
The only "clear mistake" FIFA admits to is that they shouldn't have allowed people to see the real mistakes. Is it time to grab the torches and pitchforks yet? Not quite. There's more.
Meetings between these two sides often provide talking points and this one's came 60 seconds later when Lampard's shot from the edge of the box struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced down, with the referee ruling the ball had not crossed the goalline.
It simply bounced down and was ruled as having not crossed the line? That paints a very different picture than what everyone with a television saw. It makes it sound as if it was almost close. And it was only a talking point because the only people who didn't recognize it as a goal were the refs.
On Tevez's first goal:
Tevez might have thought his chance had gone when Perez raced out to block bravely at his feet, but Messi was quick-witted enough to return the ball toward goal, where the Manchester City striker was waiting to head home. Breaking the deadlock enabled Argentina to take a firm grip on proceedings, and within seven minutes that hold was strengthened as Mexico reached for the self-destruct button.
"Waiting to head home" ... in an astoundingly offside position.
Sure FIFA nor any corporate entity wants to highlight their failings on their official website, but FIFA's attempts to hope everyone simply forgets what they saw goes beyond those match reports. According to the AP, they kept their lips locked during the press ravaging that was Sunday's daily briefing, too:
The governing body of world football did not send any officials with responsibility for referees to its daily briefing despite widespread furor over Sunday’s errors.
FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot faced hostile questioning but said he was not competent to discuss decisions by referees or football’s rules-making panel, which has rejected introducing video technology that would help match officials.
“We obviously will not open any debate,” Maingot said. “This is obviously not the place for this.”
The debate is already open, Mr. Maingot. It's been released from confinement and it has you surrounded. If the sport's glittering centerpiece of a tournament - the one that this debate threatens to ruin - isn't the place to discuss it and maybe even do something to at least appear as if you care, then where?
But the primary question remains - is it corruption at work or ineptitude compounded by embarrassment? To be honest, it almost has to be the latter. If the fix was in, you'd think they would at least try to be sneaky about it rather than purposefully ignore clear goals and blindly overlook offside infractions that even someone unfamiliar with the rule could spot. That's just stupidity. Then again, this is FIFA and whether it's protecting sponsor against poor street merchants and ladies in orange dresses or doing business through nepotism, subtlety has never been its strong suit.
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