FIFA finally changes course

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:29 PM ET

PRETORIA -- Upon further review, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has felt the need to say sorry to England.

Had FIFA already employed goal-line technology like the other major sports, such a gesture would have been unnecessary.

But at least FIFA acknowledged Tuesday that it will move forward by discussing the implementation of such measures, which, for an organization stuck in the dark ages, is a positive development.

With Blatter and FIFA having turned themselves into the laughing stocks of the globe for their Bumbling in Bloemfontein on Sunday, the beleaguered FIFA president insists the issue of goal-line technology will now be considered as an option in order to better identify scoring plays heading into the future.

It's about time.

The situation has been the hot topic at South Africa 2010 from the moment Frank Lampard's obvious goal was not seen by the officials during Germany's 4-1 victory over Lampard's English side Sunday.

"It is obvious that after the experience so far in this World Cup, it would be a nonsense to not reopen the file of technology at the business meeting of the International FA Board in July," Blatter told a round table discussion involving hand-picked media members Tuesday.

"I apologized to England ... The English said 'thank you and accepted that you can win (some) and you lose (some)."

Blatter also sent his regrets to Mexican team officials for a flagrant off-side that was not called on Argentina's opening goal in a 3-1 victory over Mexico at Soccer City.

That oversight came just hours after the officiating blunder involving the Lampard play, truly making it Black Sunday for FIFA. Having said that, Blatter differentiated between the two incidents.

Yes, FIFA will examine technology for incidents such as that in the England match. But for controversial offside situations, like happened in the Mexico-Argentina game, there will be no discussions concerning video replay. Nor will there be the use of video for hand balls.

"Personally, I deplore it when you see evident referee mistakes but it's not the end of a competition or the end of football," Blatter said. "This can happen. The only thing I can do is (Monday) I have spoken to the two federations (England and Mexico) directly concerned by referees' mistakes. I have expressed to them apologies and I understand they are not happy and that people are criticizing.

"The only principle we are going to bring back for discussion is goal-line technology. Football is a game that never stops and the moment there was a discussion if the ball was in or out, or there was a goal-scoring opportunity, do we give a possibility to a team to call for replays once or twice like in tennis?

"For situations like the Mexico game, you don't need technology."

You do, however, need better officiating, something Blatter insists also will be addressed.

"We will come out with a new model in November on how to improve high level referees," he said. "We will start with a new concept of how to improve match control. I cannot disclose more of what we are doing but something has to be changed."

For the sake of the game credibility, it had better.

This, after all, is a sport where Diego Maradona's 1986 "Hand of God" goal is known as one of the most memorable moments in World Cup history.

Sad. Because it was a moment of cheating.

More recently, so was a goal by Brazil's Luis Fabiano against Ivory Coast earlier in the 2010 World Cup, a play where the ball glanced off Fabiano's arm twice before it went into the net.

Theoretically, FIFA should use technology to iron out those plays, too. But for an organization that only takes baby steps when it does anything at all, that realistically is not about to happen, even though it should.

In the case of the Lampard goal, it appears FIFA is adopting the policy of "better late than never." Still, isn't this a little after the fact?

Isn't that like saying you're going to study how icebergs effect the hulls of ships like the Titanic?

Blatter had to come clean. Even he, from his swank VIP box at Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium on Sunday, could see that the ball that rocketed off the toe of England's Lampard bounce off the cross bar, land at least a foot across the German goal line, then come back out into the field of play.

Everyone witnessed it. Everyone, that is, except Uruguayan assistant referee Mauricio Espinosa and his countryman, referee Jorge Larrionda, the two men in charge of determining when a goal is a goal.

Or, in this case, isn't a goal.

Lampard's strike would have allowed England to tie rival Germany 2-2 late in the first half. Yes, Germany was the better team on this day, going on to breeze to a 4-1 win. But no one can predict if the Germans would still have coasted to victory had Lampard's goal been allowed. The English were pressing at the time and, in a sport known for its ebbs, flows and changes in momentum, the game could have gone either way.

Besides, FIFA had 44 years of precedent to change its ways heading into that Germany-England match. It chose not to.

Back in 1966, England's Geoff Hurst scored the winning goal against Germany in a 4-2 victory over the Germans in the championship game at Wembley Stadium that landed The Three Lions their first and only World Cup.

Now, more than four decades later, Hurst admits that, after watching video replays of his decisive marker, his shot, which eerily resembled Lampard's by deflecting off the cross bar, never actually crossed the goal line.

Fair enough. They didn't have the technology back then to determine whether it was in or not. They do now. In fact, they've had it for a while. That's why the NHL uses replay to verify goals, the NFL for touchdowns and major league baseball for home runs.

And now - only now, after having refused time and again through sheer arrogance to consider keeping up with the times - are they considering goal-line technology.

"It happened in 1966 and then 44 years later -- though it was not quite the same," Blatter said of the Hurst and Lampard goals.

Make no mistake. It is a good thing the movers and shakers of soccer will congregate in Wales next month to discuss moving into the modern world, a place that already includes flush toilets, Blackberries and television clickers.

But what guarantees are there that this will ever get past the blabbing stage? Answer: There are none.


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