Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The (Soccer) Battle of Britain

It was a modern major miracle for Germany and the world when the wall came down in 1989. A more recent modern miracle for Germany was the blown call in the Round of 16 at the World Cup in South Africa this Summer.

"Watch," I told friends during the Group Play. "Some way, somehow, someone will bring up 1966. Fights still break out over that World Cup Final between England and Germany; it's their clarion call to arms, I explained. In that famous game the Germans were defeated in part by a Geoff Hurst "Ghost Goal" that shouldn't have been because the ball never crossed the goal line. Instant replay didn't exist then but it does now and it is needed as much as it was then.

The purists within "FIFA," the international governing body of soccer/football, claim that although some calls may be considered questionable that all evens out in the end; that within the spirit of the game one blown call should not and often is not the deciding factor within a match. To their point, the final score between Germany and England oh so long ago was 4-2.
At the same time, however, with the entire sporting world up in arms over repeated and repeatedly bad calls during the 2010 World Cup FIFA chose to retreat within its bunker by declaring no re-broadcasts of controversial plays. Let the boos, whistles and vuvuzelas ring out in full, cheated cry! As if that will fix the problem or make it go away? Uh, can you say ESPN? YouTube?

Some say a key reason behind the refusal to introduce new technology to the sport is because of the American roots of instant replay. High-falutin' electronic interference from a brash and meddling nation that doesn't even really care about the game? I doubt it but they're still missing the point. Instant replay doesn't fix all the ills of a judgment call as most fans of American football will attest. It does rectify egregious errors, however, like the obvious-to-a-blind-man goal England scored to tie the game in the first half against Germany at two all.

A mentor I had once told me that no progress in a relationship will ever be made if unresolved issues remain festering on the table, be it between co-workers, customers, family or friends. How can a team play its heart and hardest if there is a lingering sense of being cheated, that the pitch is not a level playing field?

Germany's "Mannschaft" ultimately dismantled the English with surgical precision by a score of 4-1. One blown call didn't seem to matter much, or did it? Either way, forty-four years is an awfully long time to wait for things to come out even. In this current truculent refusal by FIFA to modernize the fans will never abandon the game they so dearly love but many have gone or will go to their graves waiting for spirit of the game to serve its own justice.

FIFA simply must find a way to instantly address the human error equation of the judge. As I write this the World Cup is still only in the Round of 16; and though Mexico, the United States and England, bad call victims all, are gone, I'm quite sure as the stakes get higher that the real squealing and screaming has only just begun.

Gotta go.

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