June 26, 2006

After watching the World Cup for the past few weeks, I thinkI have a better understanding for why most Americans don’t care at all about
soccer. Forget the reasons we hear time and time again — no scoring, slow
paced, no breaks to get beer or go to the bathroom. The officiating is ruining
this World Cup and has been so atrocious that one has to wonder if Vince
McMahon is behind this whole thing.

I just watched the final 10 minutes of the Italy-Australia match, which up
until the final seconds was completely captivating. The underdog Aussies kept
pressuring the Italian goal and looked as if they would score the go-ahead goal
to pull off a mammoth upset. But then the officials stepped in, as they have in
too many games thus far. An Italian player trips over an Australian player (who
is pretty much just lying on the ground) and a penalty shot is called,
basically the equivalent of the referee just stopping the game and
declaring Italy
the winner.

The US got eliminated last week on a similar call (although it wasn’t with 10 seconds
left in the game), where a defender did nothing wrong, yet was called for a
foul in the box, leading to a penalty kick. Can’t the folks at FIFA adopt the
same unwritten laws that exist in other sports, such as not calling iffy
penalties in overtime of Stanley Cup playoff games? Don?t they know that calls
like this ruin the game for everyone outside of the country that benefits from
the call?

There have been so many yellow and red cards issued this tournament, that one
would think players are literally punching one another on the field. Most of
these calls are drawn through acting. Almost every time a player slides into
another, the guy with the ball winds up crying on the ground, holding his leg.
Then miraculously, the guy almost always is fine within a minute. The only
thing in American sports that rivals this are wide receivers motioning for a
flag on every incomplete pass. Luckily, most NFL officials aren’t duped by this
the way that FIFA refs are.

Baseball fans like to get angry at guys like Don Denkinger
and Doug Eddings (the A.J. Pierzynski non-strike out call last year) for making
the wrong calls in huge games. Yet, their calls were split-second judgment
calls under enormous pressure. Soccer refs are able to think for a few seconds
before pulling out a yellow or red card and basically ruining a country?s hopes
for the next four years.


All refs are subject to make bad calls in each and every sport. I personally do not like the offside rule, but I do not think it is wrong to strictly punish violent behaviour, like kicking someone from behind, with game suspensions.
Anyway, FIFA has more countries affiliated than the United Nations and soccer is followed by hundreds of millions all around the world.

I hope you kept watching the next rounds; the officiating improved a lot. Apparently, FIFA put out a directive before the Cup telling refs to really crack down – hence all the cards. After all the ruined games, they rescinded it.

Hope it didn’t turn you off from soccer too much – we need more American sports fans to become soccer fans as well.

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