Refereeing deserves red card
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG -- The referees are ruining the World Cup.
All the bad referee jokes have been told before. Three blind mice. Yada, yada, yada.
But the officiating in the World Cup is no joke and is making a mockery of the competition.
The absolutely ridiculous red card given to Switzerland's Valron Behrami was the last straw.
Khalil Al Ghamdi of Saudi Arabia inexcusably showed Behrami the red for an apparent elbow. The call was soft to say the least, with a Chilean player all over his back. A foul, maybe. But a red card, never.
The knee-jerk reaction of the official to send the player off is part and parcel of the careless distribution of cards throughout the tournament. There is nothing worse than a referee making himself a bigger part of the game than the players.
The best referees are the ones who look over the game, but are forgettable in the end. This hasn't been the case in South Africa.
Al Ghamdi dished out four yellow cards and one red in the first half of the Switzerland/Chile match. And then absolutely lost control in the second half, giving out another five. What a disgrace!
This liberal use of cards ruins the game. It takes away flow and hurts the integrity of the game.
Through 31 games, there have been a whopping 123 yellow cards and 10 sent off.
That's an unbelievable number considering these are supposed to be the world's best teams, masters of discipline and balancing competitive fire power with intensity. There hasn't been a game without a card.
Sure, some of the cards have been well warranted. And not every official has been off base. Nigeria's Sani Kaita's out of bounds kick was a well-deserved red. But the vast majority of calls have been nonsense, unnecessarily altering the game for the worse.
A team goes a man down, the dynamics completely change. The match goes from one of tactical balance and strategy to one of survival.
No viewer or paying customer wants to see a player sent off unless it's a clear cut foul or inexcusable moment.
These are game-changing calls.
Behrami's red was game-changing. Germany's Miroslav Klose's two yellows were game changing. You cannot convince me the striker deserved to be sent off against Serbia. His mistimed tackle from behind was certainly a foul. But not a yellow card when the player was already on one.
Some will say calls are black and white. A foul is a foul is a foul. And so are yellow cards. Don't buy that argument. The best officials use discretion of what to call and when to call it.
Nobody will say a referee's job is easy. And play-acting by certain players makes it more difficult. Players are accountable as well.
Referees are fallible, and that's cool. Mistakes happen and can be accepted to a certain degree.
Harry Kewell's red card, for example, for handling the ball on the line, was a bang-bang play, to close to tell from a naked eye. Right or wrong, a collective grown echoed through Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg and the game was worse off for Australia going a man down.
With Kewell's sending off, Australia went down a man in back-to-back games, with Tim Cahill hard done by against Germany. Cahill even pulled out of his challenge and was still sent off. Who can blame the Aussies for pleading with FIFA general coordinator of the Rustenburg site, Canadian Peter Montopoli, to do something about the call.
There was obviously nothing Montopoli could do.
The awarded penalty for the Daniele De Rossi flop, giving Italy a gift penalty was a joke. Sure, there was a slight grab by New Zealand's Tommy Smith, but a penalty is far too harsh.
The farce of a late potential winner by Maurice Edu of the U.S. called back against Slovenia by Koman Coulibaly of Mali is still a sore spot. And FIFA's nonchalant stance to the performance of its officials is even more infuriating.
There are too many incidents to list that have had huge consequences on the outcome.
More has to be done. Only choosing refs from big, bonafide soccer nations with established, high-pressure leagues is a start.
Why are referees from the most random places booked to officiate the biggest games anyway? What makes a referee from Mali or Saudi Arabia qualified to ref a game played at the highest level at a pace that far exceeds common games in those nations.
There is no accountability. An even bigger problem is FIFA doesn't put proper tools in place to help their officials. Ear-piece and alternative communication is fine but still not good enough.
The way to help officials is putting another ref on the field. Just like the NHL did in hockey when the game became too difficult to call effectively.
No matter what, the status quo isn't good enough.