Howard Webb Was Not Good Enough

Disclaimer: I hate Howard Webb. All Spurs fans do. When Webb officiates a Spurs game, often against one of the big four, the big calls always go against Tottenham. Harry Redknapp himself said “I never seem to get a decision out of Howard Webb.” Now it might be that Webb hates Spurs, but it also might be (and this is my Howard Webb theory – that he tends to err or lean towards the more favored teams.

Now both teams after the final can complain about fouls/cards not given, as both teams did vehemently after the game. They were right to. But in the end I think the Dutch got the worst of it and feel right to be aggrieved. Webb overall did nothing to distinguish himself, got some very big calls wrong, and on those big calls, as my Spurs experience attests, they went to the team that was favored.
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FIFA to change officiating: Two refs is the best answer

Soccer should follow hockey and go to two refs

This World Cup has been plagued by poor officiating. From the mystery foul that ruled out a perfectly good Maurice Edu winner against Slovenia, or Frank Lampard’s goal that wasn’t against Germany, or Carlos Tevez’s offside goal to open the scoring against Mexico, referees have been at the center of attention too often and for the wrong reasons. FIFA seemed embarrassed by the number and shocking nature of the mistakes, and now it looks like refereeing changes are coming. Goal line technology and two end line officals are the most commonly discussed options, but both of those would only solve one problem – goal decisions. If changes are going to be made, FIFA should address officiating throughout the game, and two on field referees will improve goal line decisions but also make the entire game easier to officiate.

Human error is part of the game for officials too. One line of argument goes that controversial calls actually help the game as it elevates interest and media attention. That, frankly, is crap. Of all the major team sports, soccer is by far the most difficult in which to score, just one moment can turn a game. The stakes are magnified exponentially when they come in a tournament as important to players and fans as the World Cup that only happens once every four years. Who knows what would have happened in the second half of England v Germany if the score was tied 2-2, but it certainly could have been a much different game.

Despite earlier comments from FIFA President Sepp Blatter that no changes were coming, FIFA General Secretary Jermone Valke told the BBC Thursday that this “is the final World Cup with the current refereeing system.” Continue reading

FA blow it: Ferguson allowed to resume abusing referees unabated

Ferguson free to rant again; Photo by Austin Osuide

Alex Ferguson is a very good manager. But he also brings the game into disrepute with his constant abuse of match officials. There was a glimmer of hope that the Football Association was starting to get serious about managers and players intimidating referees when Ferguson was given a 2 game touchline ban with 2 more games suspended for remarks about referee Alan Wiley.

The suspension of the final two games was supposed to serve as a check on Ferguson’s antics, but in two successive weeks the Man U manager has gone back to his typical tirades and the FA have given him a complete pass. Instead of being a deterrent, this episode has just given Premier League managers the green light to whine, complain, and otherwise abuse match officials making a mockery of the FA’s “Respect Campaign.” Continue reading

Britain’s embarrassing xenophobia on “cheaters” holding them back

Steven Gerrard doesn't dive, ever

Its something that every non-British English speaking soccer fan knows all too well: in the eyes of the British, only foreigners cheat. We all remember the uproar surrounding David N’Gog’s blatant dive against Birmingham a few weeks back. Compare that furor to the tidal wave of criticism total silence on Wayne Rooney’s plunge against Villa on Saturday. But it’s not just diving; the British seem to have a peculiar view of who can pressure referees and who can’t. This reflexive xenophobia is part of what is holding the English back in world soccer.

David N’Gog dove. It’s pretty simple. Lee Carsley stuck his leg in and N’Gog theatrically went over it without any contact. He won a penalty that rescued a 2-2 draw for the struggling Reds. All across Britain, N’Gog was castigated – “hung, drawn, and quartered” in the words of one journalist. It shouldn’t have been a penalty and it was a key moment in the game, but it is impossible to think that it would have produced the same reaction if an English player had been the culprit. Continue reading

Conspiracy Theory of the Day… Nike and Fifa

So a few weeks ago Association Football got confirmation that the images of the new US jersey floating around the intertubes would in fact be the jersey the US would wear in the World Cup. Interesting though, the uniforms had a throwback element – a sash to commemorate the 1950 victory of England. What a coincidence for Nike that the US ends up drawing England in the first game (not to mention France pulling the South Africa group after mysteriously not being seeded). I am personally not one for conspiracy theories – people, in my experience, are usually just not competent, creative and organized enough to pull them off. But when it comes to Fifa that can sort of be thrown out as transparency and the “integrity of the process” definitely don’t come to mind. I am not saying the draw was rigged to avoid a true group of death, or to make it up to France, or to help build the hype with ESPN or Nike. I am not saying that. I’m just sayin…

1950 World Cup

2010 World Cup

British Hypocricy and a defense of Henry

Not Satan.

I can sense the knives starting to come for me. How could I defend Henry? He obviously cheated Ireland out of the world cup. That he did. But the ongoing attacks on Henry have gone way way too far.

In essence, Henry is being attacked for not being the moral saint of football. In my eyes he is really being crucified for the larger sins of football. Henry blatantly violated the rules, but when it comes to football all players, especially strikers, are “cheats” if you define it as trying to gain an advantage by flaunting the rules. The magnanimous English press declare he should have been the premier sportsman and admitted to the ref that it was a hand ball. That would have been an amazing level of sportsmanship and would have been applauded, but Henry is no Ghandi – nor should we expect players to be so. (I bet in retrospect a player like Henry who has played in three World Cups and won one of them definitely had more to lose from his reputation than from France not making the World Cup). Players aren’t angels and a moralistic libertarian approach toward governing the game is ridiculous. Yet the English have used this incident to attack Henry, the French, and to boast about British sportsmanship. But really the English have almost no leg to stand on in their attacks of Henry.

First, imagine the shoe was on the other foot. England are in extra time of the second game of a two game playoff to go to the world cup and lets say Rooney were to have done what Henry did – instinctual control the ball with his hand. Would the Brits really have gone bananas calling Rooney a world class cheat. Continue reading

In defense of Ngog: All strikers are cheaters

Olympic+Team+Trials+Diving+Day+1+OGDcp2iI2tZlWhile the English press are going after David Ngog for diving, the fact is that what the young Frenchman did yesterday was actually no worse than what almost every striker does (including Wayne Rooney and Darren Bent) – the only difference was that Birmingham’s Lee Carsley was fortunate not to make contact.

Clearly, David Ngog’s flop was a dive and should not have been a penalty – but on the other hand Carsley did obstruct Ngog’s path. Carsley was well behind the ball and if Ngog doesn’t fly in the air there is likely contact and a penalty. Ngog is guilty of embellishment and should receive stick, but his singling out is a bit extreme and one has to wonder if this would be the case were he English.

If you saw the Spurs-Sunderland game this weekend, Darren Bent won a penalty in which both he and the Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes were both going for a 50-50 ball. Bent got a touch on the ball first, but was clearly going to ground well before Gomes ever made contact. If Gomes pulled his arm back at the last moment Bent goes down with absolutely no contact and is called a cheat. But instead he got contact and the announcers praised him.

The problem though was that the intent of both Bent and Ngog were exactly the same – to force the official to call a penalty by going to ground not to stay on their feet and continue playing.
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