Home > Uncategorized > OP-ED: Cards and Goals are the Most Important Calls

OP-ED: Cards and Goals are the Most Important Calls

I cannot recommend a brief article any more highly than Tuesday’s Washington Post article containing quotes from referees following a peek inside a World Cup referee practice session.

While I’m tempted to copy the whole thing, here’s the part that I found most interesting:

Afterward, the referees fielded reporters’ questions, eager to explain the effort and angst that goes into their work.

Asked what decisions weigh most heavily, Webb said: “The match-changing decision, mainly. The decisions to award goals or disallow goals; the decisions to award penalty kicks or not to award penalty kicks. And red cards. And yellow cards. They’re the crucial ones — the ones that ultimately FIFA wants us to get right. Our performances are defined by those type of decisions.”

Massimo Busacca of Switzerland broke the heart of the host nation when he issued a red card to South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. Khune wept as he trudged off in shame, and Bafana Bafana fell to Uruguay, 3-0.

In such cases, Busacca makes a point of explaining his calls to players. “We are in the same family, he said, “so it’s very important sometimes to explain what happened.”

He was less sure about the merits of explaining calls to fans or reporters. “I would say we are not ready for that,” Busacca said. “They would complain too much.”

For today, I won’t touch the comment about goals and cards being the things that FIFA claims it needs referees to get right — the poor history of several officials at this tournament calls that into question — but focus instead on Busacca’s comment that explaining calls to reporters and fans would lead to “too much” complaining.

With all due respect (which incidentally could be an insult if not much respect is due), reporters, fans, players, coaches, federations, etc. complain about calls.  But honestly discussing them normally settles things down.  Now, I don’t want soccer to turn into the NFL, but compare the tenor of the crowd at an NFL game where a call that’s gone against the home team’s been explained by the referee over the loudspeakers to an MLB game where a close call isn’t explained to the crowd. And Jim Joyce admitted a historic bad call, then came out the next day and umpired a game between the exact same teams at the same stadium in front of similar fans, where he was given a generally warm reception.

Ultimately, the concern shouldn’t be complaints — losers whine sometimes.  The concern should be calls that make fans question the integrity of the beautiful game.  And when you have them, hiding behind a code of silence in public isn’t the answer.  If that’s truly what it takes to preserve soccer, then soccer isn’t worth saving.

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