Monday 26 June 2006

Recording the bad history of football

When the judge becomes the news

They say, once a journalist becomes the news, it is time to move on. Almost the same can be said of the situation where the commentary on a football match seems to centre on the referee.

Although, I only saw parts of the Holland - Portugal World Cup knockout round match, I kept abreast of the more crucial events of that encounter.

The job of refereeing is probably a very hard one, one of keeping abreast of things on the field, running about to ensure things are in view, making critical and instant decisions based on the facts as you see them, taking occasional advice from the linesmen and so on.

The final decision remains that of the referee and some of those decisions could turn the match, if not ruin it entirely and take the entertainment out of the beautiful game.

3 strikes and out

Only last week, the hapless Graham Poll was on the verge of reputation damage as he issued 3 yellow cards before sending off an offender in the Australia - Croatia game.

Even for non-football aficionados we probably all know that the production of second yellow card automatically attracts a red card and a send-off. It is the reason why the referee makes notes to keep a tally of booked infringements since memory might as well fail within the chaos of field play.

He basically did not perform to the standard, to which we were all accustomed and an early return from the World Cup would not be remiss of the FIFA authorities.

However the Holland - Portugal match took this to a new dimension; the weather could not have been the most clement, at that temperature people might just be a bit irritable, more careless and less disciplined - it could affect the tenor of the game understandably.

The bad history of football

Having equalled the record of 16 yellow cards of which 4 were second yellow cards leading to 4 red cards another record probably never to be surpassed ever, the game could not have been better marred by seeming incompetence, intemperance and impatience.

What is so amusing about this episode is the mad rush of yellow rage that happened between the 73rd and the 78th minute - six cards in all - one leading to red card.

The 73rd minute had 2 shared between the teams, the 74th minute had one to Holland then the 76th minute another 2 to Portugal and the 78th had a yellow to red card for one of the men booked in the 73rd minute.

Two of the red cards came at the end of regulation time for both halves at the 45th for Portugal and the 90th for Holland.

It is unfortunate that Holland did not make it through this round, but it is definitely an advance on their not appearing in the last World Cup - new sketches would have to start towards South Africa 2010.

Portugal who have been deprived of 2 players meet England next Saturday their referee being the man who shunned the England coach job when our unhelpful press camped outside his door just on the rumour that he had accepted the job. It would be a tough game, but here is hoping England does pull this through.

Rules, rules, rules

Like a Dutch colleague surmised, each card given was given according to the rules - well, you cannot get any more Dutch than that - they like rules.

I would however leave the last word on this matter to the President of FIFA - "I consider that today the referee was not at the same level as the participants, the players. There could have been a yellow card for the referee".

In my book, I already have 2 red cards for that referee - hopefully we would not suffer this propensity for interventionism from other referees as we draw to the close of the World Cup.

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