Friday, July 02, 2010

Official Interlude

According to Harry Kewell, the Refs Favour Big Guns. I don't think it's Harry Kewell's place to say it actually, but he's broadly correct, and backs up my own and many others' observations.

Actually Harry Kewell is looking to me more and more like a poor man's Cristiano Ronaldo - brilliant, but a mummy's boy, a cheat and a whinger. One fan back at the Gulag reckoned he saw Harry dive five times in his 27 minutes. I counted just two definite dives, but impressions are real, even if they're not entirely accurate. Like Ronaldo, if he didn't cheat himself his whinging might have some credibility but as it is it just looks really bad.

But ad hominem is not an argument, and just because Harry is a cheating tool doesn't mean he's not correct. So what's happening here?

Well once again I don't think there's some official directive behind the bias. There's just a lot of close calls in a soccer game, and a lot where a quick judgement has to be made about a grey situation. Is it worth stopping the game for? Has the game gotten to a point where it needs bringing under control? Does the team being wronged have the advantage anyway? This mere mortal has to answer these questions in a flash and then, right or wrong, maintain his authority no matter what. The 22 blokes he's officiating are millionaires with egos the size of their BMWs. The pressures and the margins for error are quite mind-boggling.

So if there's some error, who do you reckon it's going to favour, overall?

If there's a broad institutional problem, it's that the refs are inexperienced at this level. In the language we would use when describing players, they haven't had enough recent gametime at a high level.

It is a FIFA thing that the World Cup must bring refs from all over the world. I think that's bullshit. The Mexican guy who gave Timmy a red card, and later officiated another game (I wish I could remember the one - help me out if you can), stopped the play for every second tackle and threw cards around like confetti. In short, quite apart from making some bad calls, he ruined the game and made it as stop-start as a rugby match.

He plies his trade in Mexico, a minor league at best, and cannot be expected to be up with the professional antics of the high-profile wankers who play in Europe. He's literally out of his league.

As the tournament has gone on my feeling is we've got some better refs, like the Hungarian guy who handled the USA v Ghana match. (I hope I can remember my mental notes correctly - I think this is the game that stood out for me in this way.) I loved it how he let the soft ones go, but still, when a decisive and clear foul was made, asserted his authority with a whistle and in the clearest cases a card. The game was allowed to flow. I especially love seeing a diving prick disadvantaged by his own antics as the play continues right over the top of his pathetic, prone body. This is good refereeing.

The Round of 16 refereeing has been better in general in this sense, in my very broad perception (I haven't kept careful notes or anything).

But the point is that given the incredible talent on the field, the speed of the game, and especially the sophisticated, highly developed techniques of both fouling and of diving, you need refs for whom this is part of their trade. That is, you need refs that regularly officiate Champions League games, EPL, Spanish and Italian League games. Otherwise, you don't just get bad decisions, you get crap games.

On a historical note, in the era of Pele and Maradona there were goals. But both of them in their biographies attest to the bruised, bleeding shins they would end the game with as defenders resorted to kicking and hacking their legs to attempt to stop them. This was bad, and it has largely been cleaned up. It's right that fouls are called and cards are given for this behaviour. But note that diving wouldn't have helped these two greats score goals, and score goals they did, because as proud athletes they kept running if they could.

Ronaldo and Kewell will never be this great, because they're habitual cheats. We need experienced, wary refs, and to reiterate another point made in previous blogs, we need post-match tribunals to properly punish the cheating (both fouling and diving) that the ref misses. It's for the good of the game.

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Blogger Marty said...

Marco Rodriguez, i think, later refereed the Spain v Chile match, and exercised his card arm quite heavily again in that match. Another red, to a Chilean this time, for a trip on Torres.

July 02, 2010 8:42 am  
Anonymous Neil said...

A trip that was accidental and of which Fernando Torres made the most of.

As for referees that have grabbed my attention - the referee from Uzbekistan who did the opening game was good in that game and the others I have seen him in. I hope he is used in the latter stages of the tournament.

July 02, 2010 1:29 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks Marty. That was the one I reckon. Apologies for such poor research.

And cheers Neil. I certrainly hope the officiating is up to it in these last eight games.

Mind you, a lot of the worst divers have been eliminated from the competition. :)

July 02, 2010 3:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diving in soccer is one of the biggest factors contributing to the lack of progress the sport has made in Australia. I've heard many Australian soccer supporters complain that their favoured code of 'football' isn't given a fair showing in this country, but when it's juxtaposed with the much more more thoroughly officiated and regulated games of rugby leage, rugby union, and AFL - with their use of video refs and post-game tribunals, and the generally sincere sportmanship that this engenders - soccer, ironically, comes out looking like the least sophisticated code of football on offer. Add to this the outrageous diving and whining to the referees and you have the makings of a thoroughly intolerable spectator experience.

July 03, 2010 10:47 am  

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