FIFA's answer to bad officiating? Drop refs
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG -- FIFA has released the list of referees who will continue to officiate games in this World Cup.
The starting list of 29 referees has been whittled down to 19. Several have been red-carded for grotesque errors made during the Group of 16 games.
First things first, the only Canadian official in the group of referees and assistants is Hector Vergara and he will continue to work the lines.
There are four referees whose errors stood out like Diego Maradona's suit. One of those gone is Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay. His crime was missing the Frank Lampard goal, the shot off the underside of the bar that was two feet inside the line.
Also gone is Roberto Rosetti from Italy. His failure was in not overriding his assistant referee when he allowed Argentine Carlos Tevez' goal against Mexico, a goal that was offside by about two counties.
The third of the quartet to earn an early trip home was French referee Stephane Lannoy. It hasn't exactly been a stellar World Cup for anything French. Lannoy somehow missed a double hand ball by Luis Fabiano.
And the first of the referees to leave their mark on the tournament was Koman Coulibaly of Mali. He whistled off a goal by American Maurice Edu for a foul that was being committed on another U.S. player. The oopsie almost cost the Americans a chance at the second round.
To the ultimate embarrassment of the FIFA oligarchs, this tournament needed something to focus on because the football has been so bad. It's settled on something that has been perhaps worse ... the officiating.
So having refused to do anything to improve the quality of referee or offer officials some sort of improvements to help them out, FIFA would rather publicly execute its referees when they make mistakes.
It's easy to point the finger at officials for ruining a tournament when the problem begins far earlier. It begins with referee selection.
Martin Larsson, the man who allowed Thierry Henry's handball that led to the elimination of Ireland, was selected to referee at the World Cup? Why? Larrionda is now going home but his refereeing history is checkered at best.
He helped France get to the 2006 final when he gave them a penalty in the World Cup semifinal and denied one to Portugal as the French beat them 1-0. He has made countless controversial decisions during matches especially involving the United States.
He was also one of the very few referees to have been dropped from the list of World Cup officials. Just two days after his selection for the 2002 event, Larrionda was suspended for six months by the Uruguayan Football Association for "irregularities that were denounced by other referees," a charge that was not specified.
Yet there he is, at the 2010 World Cup doing one of the biggest games in recent memory. Why would FIFA bring a referee with that kind of history to a World Cup? What can they be thinking?
FIFA also needs to stop its equal opportunity participation. The FIFA family insists on giving referees for some of the smallest nations and nations that do not have the kind of high quality football other nations have, high profile assignments.
Referees come from Mali, the Seychelles, Malaysia and Mozambique. There's no reason for that. If the top-rated referees all come from five nations, then use those guys. This isn't a school trip. Not everyone should be allowed to come. This is the World Cup.
The spate of bad calls has reopened the debate on using video technology. It should be implemented, but it won't be the panacea to fix all things wrong with the officiating.
You have to battle diseases with multiple treatments. In this case, making the game better means using technology in conjunction with rule changes. Don't put the referee in the position of having to make a call that ruins the game. Take some of the pressure off the referee by tweaking some rules.
The biggest problem football has is the offside rule. It's the one that leads to more mistakes, more controversy and turns off would-be fans because it slows the game down more than any other rule.
Make the rule simple. A player is onside unless there is space between him and the second-last defender. It's punishment enough when a team has a penalty shot awarded against them. Adding a red card to the foul, especially when it's a goalie, is ridiculous. Give them a yellow card but leave them in the game.
Referees now give out yellow and red cards for handballs like it's Halloween candy. The intend of the red card was for deliberate handballs, not for players who try to control a ball and touch the ball by accident in bringing it down.
Is common sense too much to ask? Dumb question.