With technology binned, maybe players should just stop cheating
Players and coaches are going to have to grin (or rather whinge) and bear it after football’s rule-makers decided that preserving the game’s essence and traditions are more important than the grievances of a few unlucky losers.
Controversies such as Geoff Hurst’s third goal for England in the 1966 World Cup final, Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal at the 1986 World Cup and, more recently, Thierry Henry’s ball-juggling effort against Ireland, are etched into football’s history.
FIFA believes the sport would not be the same without them — hence Saturday’s decision by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), on which FIFA holds half of the eight votes, to reject the use of goal line and video technology indefinitely.
Most media, coaches and players have been in favour of at least using some form of technology to help the referees in cases where it is not clear whether the ball has crossed the line and FIFA can expect widespread criticism for the decision.
So perhaps it is worth putting their case.
Firstly, goal line technology would not have helped in the Thierry Henry incident, nor in Bayern Munich’s offside winner against Fiorentina in the Champions League last month or Porto’s highly contentious winner against Arsenal which had Arsene Wenger fuming.
Only the use of video would have helped the referee in the first two while the latter was just down to the match official’s interpretation of the rules.
“If you start with the goal line, then any part of the pitch will be a potential space where you will use a video,” said Jerome Valcke, FIFA general secretary. “We want to avoid having too many ways of stopping the game.”
IFAB member Jonathan Ford added: “I was worried that you would end up with a stop-start situation where you review all decisions and I don’t see that as part of the game. “The human element of the game is a criticial component of it. It’s the thing ultimately we end up debating.”
He has a point there. Even with the benefit of having incidents replayed four of fives times from different angles, television analysts still have difficulty in judging many decisions. Using video evidence could mean that matches take three hours to play as officials ponder their calls.
Only a very small number of refereeing controversies involve goal line incidents. A great many, possibly the majority, are the result of players diving, feigning injury or viciously fouling an opponent and then complaining when they get booked or sent off.
The players and coaches seem to want it both ways – they are the first to complain when they are wronged, yet are happy to induce the referee into making mistakes which can change the course of a game.
PHOTO: Ireland’s goalkeeper Shay Given (C) reacts after controversial goal by France’s William Gallas (not seen) with Swedish referee Martin Hansson (R) after France’s team captain Thierry Henry touched the ball during their World Cup qualifying playoff match at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis near Paris November 18, 2009. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen