Monday, June 28, 2010

In Defense of a Referee

Oh, England sucked yesterday, and the general quality of the refereeing might have sucked more (Mexico-Argentina AR, I'm looking at you particularly hard). Frank Lampard tied the game for England with a blast that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and landed a full yard inside the goal before bouncing out, except that neither the center referee nor the assistant referee saw it. No goal, no tie, and, ultimately, no quarterfinals for England. Efan Ekoko noted that of the 40,000+ people in the Bloemfontein stadium, those two men were the only two who didn't see a good goal, and the replays from the camera positioned high in the stadium at the goal line, and the one in the back corner of the goal, make it blindingly obvious that the referees biffed it.

And we instantly howled for cameras on the goal line, or chips in the ball, or SOMETHING to keep blind referees from fucking up yet another match.

One thing, though, keeps me from being able in good conscience to string the Uruguayan crew up next to Koman Coulibaly: Because both of the referees yesterday were properly positioned, neither one of them had a good enough view of the goal line to be absolutely sure the ball crossed completely into the goal. Cue the BoltGraphics Generator, please:

The red dots are England attackers, the black dots are German defenders, the green dot is the German keeper, the blue dots are the referees, and the x is the spot where the ball smacked into the turf. The center referee was roughly 30 yards from the goal line, the assistant--who was properly lined up level with the next-last defender--was at least 40 yards from the goal line, and both were partially screened by at least one player (in the case of the AR, the keeper). So with a vantage point quite distant from the goal and maybe six feet off the ground, tops, neither man had much of an angle to determine if he saw green between the ball and the line during the split second bounce before the ball came out.

Of course it's an obvious call when you're positioned either on the goal line or thirty feet above it, and it's especially obvious in slow motion. But standing on the ground, thirty yards distant, in real time, without x-ray goggles? Not so much. ARs are required to follow every ball to the endline, precisely to ensure they'll be able to determine whether it has completely crossed the line and avoid controversial situations like this one, but it's physically impossible to get to the endline at the same time as a 40, 50, 60 mph shot taken from 18 yards away. So yeah, it was a goal, and yeah, I was pulling hard for England, but no, I can't fault the referees on this one because they're not fifty feet tall or wearing jetpacks and thus couldn't know without a doubt that the ball was over.

If FIFA really insist on staying in the dark ages and not employing video or microchip technology, they could at least put a line judge on each end of the field, opposite the AR, whose job would be limited to goal/no goal, corner/goal kick. The dirty hippie in me doesn't need situations to be set up for everyone to win, but really hates to see people unnecessarily set up to fail unless they're playing euchre against me, and FIFA's refusal to add extra eyes, either human or electronic, to a 110 x 75 yard field with 22 players moving at top speed does exactly that.

The Tevez "goal" in the second game, of course, from a good two yards offside, is a whole 'nother thing, and that thing is a giant bucket of suck. See, I'm not totally a reffy homer.

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