This whole routine is getting a little old, isn’t it? Screw diamonds, refereeing mistakes are forever. It’s like the referees all convene and decide whose turn it is to make mistake and forbid us from ever forgetting how truly inadequate they are. Just when we’re about to move on from one refereeing saga, the Eduardo dive, Wayne Rooney provides the perfect half-dive(he was already going down, but there was contact) to remind us of the skinny men(excluding Howard Webb) in black. Pretty good timing though, being international week and all. Thanks, Wayne.
It’s really unfair to demonize the referees without looking first at those who bestowed such an enviable task upon them – the FA, FIFA, and UEFA. Instead of giving referees a requisite arsenal for calling a fair and accurate match, they provide them with an extreme protectionism that only vilifies them more. What I mean by this is similar to what Arsene Wenger meant when he labeled Eduardo’s ban a “disgrace.” Although I believe Wenger worsened his case with some of his comments, particularly trying to defend Eduardo with claims of contact being made or mentions of his injury, he makes one very good point. UEFA retrospectively overruled a decision the referee had dealt with on the pitch, something that has always been forbidden by the FA and UEFA. We are constantly reminded: if the referee did not take action, the governing body cannot take action. The governing bodies do this to protect the referees and credit them with the final word. This was cited as the reason Jose Bosingwa was not banned for clear red-card kick on Benayoun and why Michael Ballack was not punished after the Barcelona match, just to name two examples. UEFA seem so eager to protect the decisions made by the referee that they blindly accept reversible mistakes. With the Eduardo ban, UEFA prove themselves to be hypocrites.
In last year’s Champions League semi-final between Arsenal and Manchester United, Darren Fletcher brilliantly stuck in a toe to legally win the ball from Cesc Fabregas, and he was handed a red-card. The only way to get the unjust red-card overturned, UEFA said, is if the referee mistook Fletcher for another person – in which case a different person would be banned for a legal challenge. As they always do, UEFA came to the rescue of the referee and punished the player – who actually plays the sport – with a Champions League Final suspension. In fact, Eduardo was not banned for simulation, he was banned for “deceiving the referee.” If they charge him for simulation, they accept that the referee made a mistake, but when they charge him for “deceiving the referee,” they make the referee the victim. In his own words Michel Platini removes blame of the referee,
“However, on Wednesday he showed disrespect to the game by his actions in winning a penalty against Celtic.”
The way he phrases this, you’d think Eduardo was the referee and awarded himself the penalty.
This is where I may surprise you. I wanted Eduardo to get banned for cheating, plain and simple. Bans for diving needed to start sometime and now is perfectly suitable. A friend of mine had a perfect analogy, “Cavemen used to kill each other for sport, does that mean we should never have made a law against murder?” However, in order for UEFA to really make a difference, they’re going to have to change a lot and to be honest, they probably won’t.
First, the next time Ronaldo, Messi or Kaka clearly dives in the Champions League, they should be banned for two matches. If they want to show they’re serious, they can make an example of a superstar and show football what nobody believes, that UEFA is unbiased. Second, the players need to be protected, not the referees. Why punish a player or a team to protect the least profitable and marketable aspect of the game, the referees? All decisions should be available for overruling if they are clearly incorrect. Lastly, give referees the technologies that any supporter of football has from his living room. The problem is that the governing bodies are run by older people whose playing days didn’t know anything of instant replay. The game has changed and technology has changed but sadly, they have not. This leads me to believe that instant replay and goal-line technology are inevitable, seeing as they are supported by the majority, just not the right majority. Adding an extra referee will further the problem, not solve it. If you’re playing with a flat football, do you go and get another flat football? As Slaven Bilic famously said, “Wake up.”