28thOctober, 2012, was a long awaited Sunday for English football fans across the world as it featured two intense derby games – the Merseyside derby and the subsequent title contenders’ clash between Chelsea and Manchester United. But it wasn’t worth the wait – as officials managed to grab the headlines, yet again. A legitimate goal from Luis Suarez was declared offside, denying Liverpool a win and a goal from Javier Hernandez from an offside position awarded Manchester United a victory, and not to mention, a booking leading to a red card for a dive which never took place. I’d not get too much into the details of the matches concerned – which probably everyone reading this article are well aware of, nor shall I accuse any particular team (although there are empirical evidences to suggest that the repeated favors received by certain team(s) are more than just a coincidence).
Football is about the 22 players on the field. Any sport could be played without any referee / umpire but we need them to conduct the sport in an orderly and civilized manner and also to settle the dispute between players of either sides, if any. But at no point of time, should he/she become the talking point of a game.
Football is a beautiful game indeed, there is no second thought to it. But I wonder whether this adjective could be sustained in the coming years. A sport has to be played in a fair manner, but today many players are with such an ‘unsportsmanlike attitude’. With big money being involved, every player is desperate to see their team win and they’re willing to do anything for it. In football today, the most successful team would probably be the one with the players who are immensely talented in both football and drama. It has become so easy to exploit the fallibility of a human – in this case, the referee.
For anything to be successful, be it an individual, an organisation or even a sport, it has to move on along with the changes that take place over the years. Football too has appropriately adapted itself to these changes. For instance, the shoes, the ball and various other accessories used today are a lot different from what it was seven decades ago. However, the governing body, FIFA, led by Sepp Blatter, are pointlessly being too arrogant about introducing any sort of technology, thus being a nemesis to the very sport they’re trying to sponsor.
The errors committed by a referee several years ago might have never come out and the only persons who might have been aware of such an error were probably the players involved in the particular incident. But today, there are television cameras focusing the game from every possible angle, managing to highlight even the most trivial errors of a referee. Eventually, the media too decide to concentrate on castigating the referee the next day instead of writing an extensive match report. Why should a hundred cameras at the stadium be put to waste?
Several widely watched sports today, with a rich history, have successfully implemented technology, such as Tennis, Cricket, etc. Then why should the world’s most widely watched sport be lagging behind? Several crucial matches in recent times have turned the other way owing to a wrong decision from a referee, such as the Champions League semifinal in 2009, England vs Germany – World Cup 2010, among several others. I’m glad that the Frank Lampard incident in 2010 forced the authorities to reconsider their decision on the goal-line technology.
While that is something positive, those who are demanding the goal-line technology should realize that this is not an absolute solution to the problems surrounding this issue and just solves one out of several others. The other problems surrounding the game is diving, extending time even beyond stoppage time, incorrect decisions (a booking awarded / missed, offside given / missed, etc.).
If I’m able to remember correctly, a year ago I guess, I read a Twitter conversation between the former captain of the England cricket team, Michael Vaughan and Joey Barton, where Vaughan suggested that football too should introduce the review system, with each team being eligible to challenge the any decision of the referee. Both the teams would have one chance to review the decision of the referee and if the decision goes in favor of the players, then they retain the review. This is the extent to which I’m able to recall and expand the tweet but I’d add my own ideas, too. The decision of calling for such a review should be left to the captain – which would provide the apparently symbolic post a lot of responsibility. In this way, the referee can’t be blamed altogether for subsequent wrong decisions, in case the captain fails to make the right call. After all, the team would not be able to review because of the captain’s earlier error of judgement.
There is a constraint to this review system, that is, the clock never stops in football. A lot of time is lost during throw-ins and free-kicks and if this system is brought in, time would be wasted even more and an eight minute stoppage time would become the norm. To tackle this, I’d suggest them to stop the clock, whenever there is an interruption; similar to that of basketball and also, football’s sister sport futsal and the whistle would be blown exactly when the clock reaches 90th minute – ending all stoppage time controversies.
I’d conclude with an old Latin quote ‘Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis’ - that is, ‘times change, and we change with them’ and football can’t continue to be archaic for it to survive the test of time.