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Don’t blame the referees, blame the players

June 21, 2010

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I watched the Brazil v Ivory Coast match in the bar of a Cape Town media hotel on Sunday and, not that it was really needed, was given another reminder of what an impossible job referees have in modern football.

When Luis Fabiano broke through to score Brazil’s second goal, the reaction of around 60 watching journalists ranged from joy to disappointment – but nobody was crying “handball.”

After three TV replays, suddenly it seemed that French referee Stephane Lannoy had blundered in missing what had now somehow become an “obvious handball.”

More replays, a second handling offence revealed, and it was a world conspiracy against African soccer.

Heads were shaken, insults hurled and Lannoy’s competence ridiculed by the assembled throng of “experts” who had, to a man, also missed the offences in real time.

As the match degenerated into its late farce, Lannoy was again abused. But even if the World Cup had been operating under Europa League rules with five match officials on duty, it would have been difficult to see everything that was going on.

The Ivorians were certainly putting in some tasty tackles, and some fouls, but the way Brazil manager Dunga was reacting on the sidelines one would have thought they had brought out machine guns.

Kaka then suffered what seemed an unjust second yellow and thus red card as TV replays showed Ivorian substitute Kader Keita hugely exaggerating his pain – actually deliberately misleading the officials by holding his face after the contact was with his chest – to get his opponent in trouble.

It is not the poor referee who should be criticised for buying the fakery but the players, who foul, dive, cheat and lie in a bid to gain an advantage then scream about injustice when an opponent does the same.

If there is any justice then FIFA should review the match, wipe off Kaka’s red card and ban Keita.

However, the organisation that failed miserably to hand out any meaningful punishment to Brazilian Rivaldo after he delivered one of the most famous and blatantly ridiculous pieces of pretence to get Turkey’s Hakan Unsul sent off after a ball hit his leg and he clutched his face in “agony” in the 2002 World Cup is unlikely to take the action most fans feel would be fair.

PHOTO: Referee Stephane Lannoy of France flashes the red card to Brazil’s Kaka (2nd L) during their 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match against Ivory Coast at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 20, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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