The Wizard of Oz

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Blatter’s Opinion Only One that Counts


Is Sepp Blatter sincere?  Hard to say.  Yesterday, in the face of deep set criticism and a week of depressing referee flubs, he came to terms with something he had hitherto only rejected: The need for instituting technological measures to improve calls on the soccer field.  And yet, just as things looked hopeful, he rejected any suggestion of video technology, claiming: “The camera system can only reveal what the camera can see,” as if that was a defect.

He continued: “There are situations on the goal line where the ball cannot be seen by the camera because there are players around and the goalkeeper has the ball – if you cannot see it then you cannot be accurate.”

Again, sincere? 

It’s hard enough to understand FIFA’s deep-rooted disdain for all forms of technology, despite basically every other professional sport on the planet already using devices to ensure objective calls and fairness.  But when the head of FIFA appears to make arguments out of straws, we have a problem.  The World Cup and soccer in general is bigger in every measure than the Summer Olympics. So how can it be that it is so slow to get with the program?

“I understand they are not happy and that people are criticising,” said Blatter. “I deplore it when you see evident referee mistakes and it is obvious that after the experience so far in this World Cup it would be nonsense to not reopen the file of technology at the business meeting of the International FA Board in July.”

The current acknowledgement of error is welcome, but probably not enough for most soccer folk. After all, Blatter isn’t guaranteeing the use of anything in particular in the future, just the need to ‘discuss’ the issue.

Here’s a solution, Sepp: why not put a few cameras on each side of the field, even in close proximity to the goal?

Instead Blatter talked about balls with microchips in them (which would undoubtedly stir up another manufacturing field day for Adidas), and possibly putting sensors at the goal line to detect when a ball goes in. This is all fine and dandy in theory, but it doesn’t address the larger question of why fans should continue to put their faith into the game.  Ditto the practical question of how this will help in the judging of other calls, in particular the handing out of cards (something that has proven extremely dubious this time around).

Dave Zirin of Daily News suggests that every “person who lost a solitary dime betting on these contests – on legal, sanctioned sports books, of course – should sue FIFA in a class-action lawsuit,” something that’s not so extreme when one considers the World Cup is a billion dollar betting operation.

Former Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink said recently: “Sepp Blatter should announce tomorrow that video replays will be implemented, or he needs to resign.”

The sad truth about all of this is that it doesn’t seem to matter if the sports players or the fans try to redeem the game.  It doesn’t matter what the fans think, or what the players think, or even what the referees think, because this is Sepp Blatter’s field, and what he says goes.

In a sport that is internationally renowned and considered to bring the world together in a state of idyllic democratic equality, the truth is it isn’t democratic at all—but the result of some very dubious and closed-door operations by a select few.  It may be a world’s game, but it’s a one man show. 

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