As the 2010 World Cup builds toward its finale, one fact has stood head and shoulders above the rest: Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) must institute some kind of goal-line technology (if not instant replay) and/or referee accountability. This obviously means different things to different sports in America—challenges from a coach in football, reviewing whether a ball is fair or foul in baseball, the aforementioned goal-line technology in hockey, and out-of-bounds calls in basketball —and it’s hard to predict how it would ultimately occur in soccer. The need, however, is not difficult to see.
This is far from a homer issue, as Team USA, viciously robbed of two separate goals in two separate games, ultimately won their group in the first stage of World Cup play. Those goals, amazingly, turned out to be superfluous. However, in the Round of 16, Team USA was one of the teams that wasn’t a victim of poor officiating changing the course of those games and, perhaps, the rest of the Tournament. (Brazil dominated Chile and Paraguay defeated Japan on penalty kicks, in the only real snoozers of the Round of 16.) England lost its match 4-1, but lost a goal that would have made the game 2-2 and could have affected momentum. On the other hand, Argentina’s first goal over Mexico was scored by Carlos Tevez, who clearly appeared to be offside. With these mistakes being made in crystal-clear HD and being analyzed over and over on ESPN, it might seem as though FIFA has no choice but to revisit these issues. But Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, made it clear that the only thing that would be discussed in the aftermath of the World Cup would be goal-line technology. This is a good start, but it’s not good enough.
The bottom line is that, as long as the world is watching, as long as soccer is the most popular sport in the world, there will be a need for change. FIFA can start with the promised look at goal-line tech, but there needs to be more transparency in the officiating process, and some kind of checks-and-balances in place for blatant rule-breaking that isn’t seen in the first place.