Tonight’s Brazil-Croatia World Cup opener was marred by uneven, inconsistent and ultimately result-determining officiating. Without dwelling too deeply on the calls that impacted the result, this is simply the latest episode where a match involving European-based players accustomed to a certain standard of officiating was ruined by officials from outside Europe who are not used to the speed and pressure involved in making quick decisions in such a frenzied atmosphere.
While FIFA’s efforts to promote the global game through a quota system for officials similar to the qualifying pool is noble, it simply is not working out well. The reason is unlike many of players from non-European nations who play at high level clubs in Europe, the officials sent by those nations to the World Cup work strictly in their nation’s domestic leagues. It is not entirely their fault that they are not up to the speed and standard of play which comes at the top level of European soccer.
Right now the game is being brought into disrepute for a number of reasons mostly related to FIFA’s handling of various matters including officiating. With one of the showcase matches of the competition having been ruined by multiple questionable calls, FIFA has to decide how they handle these competitions in the future.
From where I sit, no doubt exists that the best equipped officials in the world to deal with these sorts of matches work week-in and week-out in Europe’s top leagues. Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A are reputed to have the best officials in the world, while the English, French, Portuguese and Dutch leagues all have many high standard officials. These referees make mistakes as well but not with perhaps the frequency today’s Japanese crew would have.
Ultimately if FIFA wants to have the best event they possibly can, they need to implement a standard that objectively rates officials from across the globe and selects the best for international competitions. Scoring of officials can still be determined by domestic federations but the highest rated officials overall should be compared against each other.
In case you may have missed it, here’s the dive by Brazilian striker Fred that was the turning point in the game. The referee awarded a penalty to Brazil, which Neymar scored from.