Hold the line, Sepp. Don’t buckle under the pressure, which now is intense and hot, but soon will be slack and not even tepid. We do not need to let replay “technology”—the word that everybody now favors—into the beautiful game.
Yes, the referees missed awarding a lackluster England a goal against Germany. We know this because the replay—in this case—was clear. It isn’t always clear, of course. But here, we could see it and we know that, at least in the eyes of many Germans, a weird sort of justice was done.
Justice? Consider: in the Cup final in 1966, England’s Geoff Hurst shot and hit the (West) German crossbar. The ball bounced. Over the line, claimed the English. Before the line, said the Germans. The referees agreed with England, who went on to win 4-2.
So, because of Sunday, in the minds of many German fans anyway, the score is now even: one bad goal equals another.
Did Sunday’s un-awarded goal change the outcome? Fabio Capello assumed the counterfactual: had Lampard’s goal counted, England, he said, could have at least drawn. But many viewers, and less passionate assessors, took the opposite view: England did not play well over four games and were on their way home no matter what. To prove their point, we may merely say, “Wayne Rooney?”
Ah, but even if you buy that, we must still account for the missed offsides call against Argentina, when Carlos Tevez headed in a Messi pass. Here’s the strange thing about this: played live, it did look like a legitimate goal. But even when played in “slo-mo”, and even though our brains are telling us that Tevez is offside, it still doesn’t appear like he was offside, the play was that chaotic.
Again the counterfactual: would Mexico have won had that goal been disallowed? Doubtful at best. Although—and this has nothing to do with the issue at hand—Argentina’s goaltender Sergio Romero stinks, and that’s putting it nicely. Every shot on goal Mexico made—and there just weren’t enough—flummoxed the poor man. Klose, Podolski, and the rest of the German side are going to eat him alive Saturday.
The view of some old fogies is that imperfections are part of the game. Bad calls pass into lore and, like it or not, increase interest in the game. Who realizes this better than Maradona? Everybody who knows about Maradona’s divine intervention, raise their hands. This is a story, rich in detail and drama, that will never be forgotten.
The slippery slope? Let video “technology” in for “disputed” goals—which, by definition, means a set of rules must be generated to describe what “disputed” implies—and soon we will have to have it for “controversial” offsides, and then for “flagrant, but missed” fouls. And since it will take minutes—tick, tick, tick….—-to review each of these calls—a farcical spectacle in which a referee sticks his head under a blanket to play and re-play and re-re-play a tape—some bright boy will think, “Aha! Why let those minutes just pass by wasted? Why not insert a short commercial?”
And if you allow commercials, why not stick in a few times outs? After all, ninety minutes is a long time to run. Those poor fellows get awfully tired. And think about the children! I don’t know how, but somebody will figure how the uninterrupted flow of today’s game “might” lead to injury, trauma, etc., etc.
You don’t feel the force of the slippery slope? Somewhat blind to history are we? Well, never mind, and instead ponder this one. The game played today can be compared to the game played yesterday. We can count the number of goals Messi scores (if he does) with those scored by his boss. But introduce “technology” and then that comparison forever after has an asterisk.
Like it or not—and I do not—any change in the rules changes the game in ways both predictable and unpredictable. Nobody can effectively argue the opposite. We must not allow soccer to degrade into, say, what American football has become: in which grown men prance up to a field and toss little red hankies at the referees to show their displeasure. How manly!
One thing oft forgotten is that technology changes, usually by improving. The laser beams of today are not the same as they were last year. The corollary is that the technology now is imperfect. That means that there is a small, but far from zero, chance that the “technology” will provide ambiguous—or even false—information. Plus, the information provided a year from now will be different than that provided now. This ensures that the game constantly changes to adapt.
There is not enough respect for tradition; people forget the reason the game is being played. But Sepp Blatter—God bless him—has not.