The ongoing FIFA World Cup will go down as one of the most exciting editions with a flock of stars living up to their potential, a plethora of goals and down-to-the-wire finishes.
On the other hand, the 2014 edition will be rated as one of the most controversial blue ribbon football events. The restricted use of technology by the authorities is at the heart of the problem. For reasons best known to the football czars, video referrals don’t find a place in the field of play.
Let’s take the Luis Suarez biting controversy for starters. If television footage was used by the referees spontaneously, the teeth-happy Uruguayan would have been sent off in a show of immediate punishment. Instead, FIFA reviewed the footage two days later to come up with a four-month ban decision. By then, the damage to Italy was complete and some football pundits probably had a point when they felt it was a too-little-too-late decision.
Similarly, Georgios Samaras (Greece) and Arjen Robben (the Netherlands) earned dubious penalties to knock Ivory Coast and Mexico respectively. Doubtless, video referrals would have saved the day here too. Less than 24 hours after the Robben dive, the Dutch player indicated that he dives occasionally but tried his best to steer clear from any guilt for the penalty in question.
Supporters of teams being beaten fair and square should not have much reason to sulk, but to be knocked out of a World Cup unfairly can be heart-breaking. While FIFA would be proud of the fact that they have invested a huge amount of money ($260,000 per stadium; $3,900 per game) in goal-line technology which was introduced this year, the game will be better served if the administrators facilitate more usage of technology at their disposal.
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter recently admitted that video referrals can take the game forward. Blatter will do well to press for more technology and not wait for the next World Cup in Russia to introduce it. It’s not enough for the beautiful game to stay beautiful. It must be fair too.