Video replay long overdue

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:38 AM ET

Stretch your imagination to its limits.

Imagine the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Montreal Canadiens and the Leafs are in the seventh game of a best-of-seven semifinal. The winner takes on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup.

The score is tied and there's a minute left in regulation time. Suddenly a loose puck flips in front of the Leaf net and Mike Cammalleri swats at it with his glove and knocks it into the net. Everyone sees it except the officials.

The Canadiens go on to win preventing the Maple Leafs from getting to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1967.

Imagine the fallout from that type of situation.

Multiply that fallout 10 times and you have what is happening in the soccer world today thanks to Ireland's elimination from the World Cup by France.

First things first.

The hockey scenario would never happen and not just because we're talking about the Maple Leafs actually making the playoffs let alone going all the way to the semifinals. You were asked to really stretch your imagination.

It would never happen because hockey, like many other sports, has instituted a safeguard to ensure (as much as is possible) a game isn't decided unfairly.

It's called video replay.

The goal by Cammalleri would have been reviewed and the on-ice ruling overturned. The game would have gone on to a fair conclusion, you would hope.

Baseball uses video replay. Football and basketball use it. The list goes on.

By now you've noticed that the one major international sport that isn't on the list is soccer. Those that run the sport are at the best of times stubborn. The majority of those old guys were freeze-dried in the 50s.

On Wednesday, Ireland and France played the second leg of their World Cup qualification playoff. France won the first game in Ireland 1-0. Ireland was leading the second game 1-0 in extra time and appeared headed to kicks from the penalty spot.

It was a pressure-packed contest with the Irish having their share of chances to put the game out of reach.

But as the extra time period neared the midway mark, a ball found it's way to France's Thierry Henry at the near post. He could only control the bouncing ball with his hand. The referee and linesmen where caught in blind spots and didn't see the infraction. Henry took the ball and crossed it to William Gallas who scored. It was the end of the Irish.

Replays and photos clearly show Henry handled the ball. Whether it was intentional or not, whether he did it instinctively or not, doesn't matter. Play should have been stopped.

It wasn't as blatant as Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal in 1986 against England in Mexico City, but there was no question of the infraction.

Most everyone is busy castigating Henry as a cheat. Some even suggested he should have run to the referee and told him he'd handled the ball. There is no professional player of any nationality who would have done that especially with a World Cup berth at stake.

Henry is but a bit player in a much bigger play. This is about the game itself and the inability of those that run it, to make it better by whatever means at their disposal.

There were probably dozens of television cameras at that game, as there are dozens at every major soccer game. It would take no more than a minute for a controversial goal to be reviewed and the correct decision made.

No one is suggesting every tackle or every call be reviewed. Why not review goals to ensure the correct call was made? There aren't that many that a substantial amount of time would be added to the game.

One of FIFA's mandates is to promote fairness in the game. Was Ireland, a team that worked for four years to qualify for a World Cup, treated fairly? Did what happened in the game advance the cause of fairness in soccer or advance the game itself?

There is much that happens that is beyond anyone's control. FIFA can't control what anyone chooses to do on the pitch. FIFA can't control the forces that conspire to prevent officials from at times seeing what has happened.

But the means to make the game better is at FIFA's disposal.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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