With the recent issues surrounding diving and simulation in the box and elsewhere, once again we are in a broiling debate over the use of re-play video technology to assist referees. This week, Eduardo clearly dove in the box against Celtic and it flat changed the game. Perhaps, had Celtic put the first ball in the net this week, they may have challenged for the aggregate win at The Emirates. However, the early penalty surely sealed the deal for the Gunners. Wayne Rooney’s dubious dance with Manuel Almunia this weekend at Old Trafford afforded the Red Devils a much needed goal in what was otherwise an Arsenal-dominated show—save that awful own goal. These are simply the latest incidents in a long line of potentially questionable tactics by today’s footballers—and questionable calls by today’s referees.
With these issues, the question of technology is always raised. Had the referees had access to video re-play, perhaps their calls, and ultimately the match’s outcome, would have been different. So the answer to today’s diving professional footballer and half-blind referee is video, right?
Wrong. Football, Futbol, Soccer, or whatever you want to call it, is not a game that needs video re-play. The beauty of football is the continuous play of the game. We don’t need timeouts to discuss strategy—we can take care of that on the field. We don’t have 400-lb linemen who need a break every four plays. Heck, we only need three subs! My point is simple: do not interrupt the flow of the Beautiful Game through a technology that is born out of un-classy dives from un-classy players that drive Bentleys and Aston Martins. I have no problem with a subsequent review of a play much like what happened to Eduardo this week. He absolutely deserves a ban—and a steep fine as well. However, the game does not need to be stopped for the inevitable 5-10 minutes of debating in the video booth over the referee’s call. I cannot bear the thought of 60-minute halves due to the constant stoppage of the game because someone has been wronged by an only-human referee. The game should continue and be played without interruption. This is what separates our sport from all others—especially here in America.
Think video will end the debate and make all calls unquestionable? Absolutely not. Look at Arsene Wenger’s defense of Eduardo this week. He conceded that it shouldn’t have been a penalty but that it also wasn’t a dive. Are you kidding me? I like Wenger but he is wrong. Eduardo dove to get the penalty because he knew it would change the game—and he was right, it did. Just admit it, punish the player, and sit him on the bench for a few matches. I love how managers cry to FIFA, UEFA, The FA, and every other group with letters in their name to “fix the problem.” The problem lies with players who get away with unsportsmanlike conduct and are defended by their bosses. Even with video re-play, someone’s feelings are going to get hurt and some mass of supporters will hate one of the four officials. Get over it! Or don’t—someone has to lose and someone has to win. It’s a game. Until that changes, video will only be good for confirming what we already knew: diving, and complaining about it and the referee’s call of it, is a part of the game.