Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Soccer Suit

…I am the armchair fan who desperately wants to love this game, and, like untold thousands (millions?), had no choice but to curse it out, turned off by incompetent refereeing, a situation exacerbated by a governing body so intransigent and arrogant it makes British Petroleum look like a warm and cuddly quilting circle. "I am very, very satisfied," Jose-Maria Garcia-Aranda, the head of FIFA's referees, said of the quality of officiating in the World Cup matches…

…Even the most tradition-bound purists must agree that a goal should be a goal. So when referee Mauricio Espinosa mistakenly disallowed Frank Lampard's goal on Sunday, a score that would've enabled England to tie Germany 2-2, it was a very big deal. And when FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke all but ruled out the use of video replay that would correct such situations, it exposed a sport crying out not just for visionary leadership but for leadership with some grasp of reality. Not counting a goal for fear of dehumanizing a sport with replay is not in the tradition of anything besides the tradition of ignorance.

Jack McCallum, sportsillustrated.cnn.com, June 28, 2010

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) officiating problem is really pretty easy to solve. Take a lesson from American medicine and make both the referees and the governing body legally liable for bad decisions. After all, it’s not like the actions of the referee go without consequence. A decision to allow, or disallow, a goal has a major impact upon the ratings of individual players and their ability to make a living at their chosen sport. Similarly, football clubs depend on proper officiating to ensure that both game results and overall standings are true and correct. With low-scoring games, a single inappropriate goal can cause a large change in the standings, which in turn affects a club’s ability to attract players, fans, and advertising. In addition, many football leagues feature end-of-season “relegation,” in which the lower performing teams and sent down to a lesser level league, and the best of the minors is promoted to the big time…and big money. The revenue impact of relegation on a team, let alone the psychological hot on a community, is staggering. If doctors can be sued for errors in decisions that affect the livelihood of others, even in those cases when these decisions can’t be made on any objective evidence at all, why shouldn’t FIFA?

The threat of liability, of course, will drive a headlong rush to embrace as much technology as possible to put error out of the realm of possibility. That is the current unreasonable standard in medicine…that there is perfection in an inherently unstable art…and one of the main reasons why doctors do so much testing and imaging and so little talking and educating. But if referees knew that they could be held personally liable for a missed goal or allowing an illegal play, I don’t know any that would participate at the sport’s highest level. They might if they were indemnified by FIFA itself, but would the organization want to take on the question of liability? I don’t think so. Like medicine, they will rush to a technologic solution and install goal cameras, mandatory instant replay of all scoring plays, and maybe even a coach’s challenge to eliminate their own risk. Because World Cup soccer is not about fair play or making sure that the better team wins at the end of the day, but all about FIFA.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has apologized to England and Mexico for the refereeing errors that helped eliminate them from the World Cup…

The English said 'thank you.' The Mexicans, they just go with the head,'' Blatter said, indicating that they nodded. "I understand that they are not happy. It was not a five-star game for refereeing.''

England was denied a clear goal that would have leveled its match against Germany at 2-2, while Argentina took the lead against Mexico with a goal that was clearly offside.

Associated Press, June 28, 2010

If you still had any doubt about the arrogance of FIFA, this should resolve that quandary. I would think that the Swiss Mr. Bladder (intentional error, because the lines he spouts sound a lot like the organ’s contents) would be grateful that he got a “Thank you” from the English. It would have been a lot easier, and probably more appropriate, for the Red and White to say something like “Still got those hidden Nazi bucks bankrolling your election?” (Blatter’s 2002 election to the Presidency in FIFA was surrounded by charges of bribery and corruption.) And as for the Mexicans, I think a head nod was the most gracious gesture possible to someone who clearly feels he lives on a plane far above these mere dark-skinned colonials. I can think of a few other motions that might have gotten the message across more clearly. I’d probably even be willing to help.

In the early 1970s, Blatter was elected president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organization which tried to stop women replacing suspender belts with pantyhose.

“Sepp Blatter,” Wikipedia, June 28. 2010

Ah, well, that explains it all. If you can’t talk a woman out of her pantyhose, you’ve got to find something else to screw.

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