The FIFA World Cup 2010 has departed after Spain pushed past the Netherlands, 1-0 in the last minutes of extra time. The pinnacle game was anything but. Slow, cautious and unappealing for center-stage, I found myself, a soccer apologist, unable to defend such a game but Spain deserved the win and the populace is still celebrating. But with the World Cup passing into history, I’m left with some unexpected impressions.
I found the international game of football (soccer) to be ponderous and cumbersome. I realized, with some pain, that a single referee cannot arbitrate the entire pitch and is forced to make calls up to 40 yards away — many of them bad. I saw players dramatically exaggerating injures to earn possession or an opportunity to have a crack at goal. I witnesses sideline referees miss call after call regarding on-side, a critical component of the game. And sadly, I saw the ball cross the line in the England v. Germany game but it wasn’t called a goal. And FIFA continues to refuse to use any technology to assist in making those difficult calls.
I contrast soccer to other sports and conclude something is missing. In an NFL football game there are seven refs and replay technology for critical calls. In a baseball game you find four umpires with video tech for home runs. In basketball, there are three refs with access to technology for final shots. Hell, even in tennis, a playing surface roughly 10 times smaller than a soccer pitch, you have six officials (at every game) plus service technology for balls in and out.
In all cases, the purpose of these officials is to ensure the game is settled on the playing surface, not based upon a “controversial” call by the referee. FIFA needs to shed the bonds of history and tradition, and focus upon actually cleaning up the game to ensure the players determine the outcome.