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Why FIFA Should Only Select the Best Officials For The World Cup

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.


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  1. salta

    July 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    By what criteria do we determine that a referee is good? That they play in the so called highest level in Europe. Remind the world who it was that issued THREE YELLOW cards to the same player in the same game at the WC.
    If that had been an African then we ould never hear the end of it.There is ABSOLUTELY no objective evidence to show European referees are better.There is such a thing as a refereeing culture across nations with some nations e.g England allowing a more physical approach and so there are cultural variations even in the same continent.As far as mistakes go ALL referees make them and we need objective evidence not anecdotes to show European referees make fewer mitakes

  2. poolgod

    June 14, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    The assistant lined up[ at least 2 yards behind the upfield from the last defender .

    Should have read ….
    The assistant lined upat least 2 yards upfield from the last defender .

  3. poolgod

    June 14, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    The positioning of the referee’s assistants is horrible . How he could have called offside on Mexico’s two disallowed goals is beyond belief .
    In the Costa Rica/Uruguay game , the second Costa Rican goal was scored by a player who lined up offside on a free kick .
    The assistant lined up[ at least 2 yards behind the upfield from the last defender .
    It is an EASY JOB , referees assistant ,
    STAY EVEN WITH THE LAST DEFENDER and listen for the sound of the ball being kicked .
    By doing that it is really difficult to make a mistake on a player being offside .

    • Gary

      June 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      poolgod… the laws state the second to last defender…. at least be accurate if you are going to criticize!

  4. Jean-Pierre Delorraine

    June 14, 2014 at 7:28 am

    The call that the Japanese ref made against Croatia was unjustified and quite fagotty to say the least. This is what devastated the psyche of the Croatian team who played at least at the same degree of quality as the Brazilian team. I was already shocked before the game started to see 3 oriental refs ready to officiate the game. I said to myself, this cannot go right. Of course, there is a possibility that “Brazil had to win this game” thus the ref was bought. We had a similar situation in the game Mexico-Cameroun where the Mexican players were robbed of 2 goals. Luckiliy they managed to win barely although a 3-0 score would have been justifiably in order.

  5. Tom

    June 13, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    The officiating is getting worse, maybe FIFA should be looking at corruption in referring now and leave the Qatar case till after the World Cup.

  6. J Knight

    June 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Here we go again. Another tough penalty call by a ref. The refs need help obviously. FIFA needs instant replay in the World Cup. Diego Costa obviously slipped and made it look like he was tripped. Tough call for the ref to make he needed to ask for help but the rules dont allow for it. Perfect opportunity for a quick instant replay. Overturn that foul call, no Penalty.

  7. Andy

    June 13, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Simple ban fred from tournament and no-one else will drive

    • Steph K

      June 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      But then how would they get to the stadium? 😉

  8. Rick

    June 13, 2014 at 9:21 am

    FIFA should red card dives, and also have some system in place to remediate horrible calls such as those yesterday.

  9. Steph K

    June 13, 2014 at 1:58 am

    If only all referees could aspire to Howard Webb-in-the-WC2010 final levels of perfection.

    Ask Xabi Alonso about his opinion on that top tier European referee.

  10. Martin J.

    June 13, 2014 at 12:23 am

    “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.”

    I’m sorry but that is totally rubbish. Do you not see any of the matches on a weekly basis in Europe’s top leagues? Those EUROPEAN officials make the same errors. You are also intimating that non-European officials cannot make quick decisions. Again, that’s absolutely absurd. In fact, many defend European officials weekly by claiming they have to make a quick decision and therefore don’t always get it right. Would we be having this same type of discussion if Howard Webb made the same error(s)? I doubt it. He would be criticized but no one would make a ridiculous statement that he wasn’t fit to officiate because of him being European.

    What FIFA needs to do is to give out retroactive punishment to players for simulation. That would help in stopping the cheating that players are involved in. Brazil’s Fred cheated and we should be making a greater case against players for that type of behavior instead of only pinpointing the errors of officials.

    Finally, Brazil is not a European nation. Should FIFA be looking at how many players play in Europe before appointing a European official? What would be the cutoff number?

    • Haole O'Huerto

      June 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      “What FIFA needs to do is to give out retroactive punishment to players for simulation.” I agree 100%! I am a ref, one of the hardest things to call is whether there has been a real foul or it’s just a pussy feigning injury. I am even seeing kids starting to dive. Needs to be stopped before it gets more out of hand. It’s embarrassing to watch actually.

  11. Yespage

    June 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I didn’t think the ref calling was that bad except for the penalty and the foul that stopped the other Croatia goal. The later can be accepted due to the distance from the alleged foul against the keeper. The penalty call for Brazil however, was a blatant dive and deserved a yellow card on its own merit.

    It was a 2012-13 Suarez level dive.

    Brazil didn’t deserve the win today.

    • Chris

      June 13, 2014 at 1:36 am

      Completely agree with you but this sentence made me laugh: “I didn’t think the ref calling was that bad except for the penalty and the foul that stopped the other Croatia goal.”

      Not too bad except for a two goal swing! Not bad at all 🙂

      • yespage

        June 13, 2014 at 8:54 am

        I should have said the calling didn’t influence too much of the game until those two calls.

  12. J Knight

    June 12, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Tell me I am completely ignorant, but has FIFA already discussed/considered using instant replay on all Penalties given/fouls called within the box? The game officials could huddle and watch the replay to make a group decision. If there is obvious simulation/a flop, like there was in this game, the player is supposed to be given a yellow card, Penalty overturned. It would take only 5 minutes. There are very very few Penalties given in any one Match. The ref marred this great well played first Match. What a day though. I Love futbol even with the refs and flopping players mucking things up from time to time.

    • Christopher Harris

      June 12, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      FIFA hasn’t passed anything like this, not that I’m aware of at least — unless you know something we don’t know.

      • Ben

        June 13, 2014 at 8:44 am

        I know the “purists” hate it, but this seems the most rationale solution.

        Penalty awards and straight reds happen what – 1-2 times per game max. If they spent 2 minutes looking at a replay of each to make sure they didnt blow it (the two calls that truly impact the result), it doesn’t materially alter the spirit of the game (heck – after every penalty there’s 4 minutes of arguing anyway – put that time to good use).

        If they are worried about a “slippery slope,” its a simple solution – don’t let the slope slip.

        This wouldn’t solve everything – there would still be phantom fouls called, still times when clear fouls/penalties are not awarded, etc – but at least you’d remove the most egregious potential gamechanging errors.

  13. Pakapala

    June 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Wow like clockwork Kartik is at it again with the same xenophobic, colonialist, jingoistic articles. Once again a referee from outside the top 3 european leagues make a mistake that all the best referees out of those so-called top european leagues have made and will certainly make at this world cup, and the jingositic argument comes out from Kartik’s pens. The same Kartik who spent last year berating officiating from the Premier League, La Liga, Champions League, you name it.

    So apparently it would be completely normal to Kartik that a german referee call a Germany-USA game or a spanish referee call a Spain-Chile game. You know only referees from the top leagues know how to call the games.

    Don’t even get me started on the fact that the so-called controversial calls we saw in this game are seen blown week-in week-out in the top leagues in Europe.

    • Chris

      June 13, 2014 at 1:34 am

      I don’t see how it is xenophobic, colonialist, or jingoistic to accurately observe that the referee had a very poor game.

  14. Oliver

    June 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Any Referee would call that..its a split of a second decision. And look at that faul from another angle u will see there was a sure the ref will get high scores.can blame it on ref when 60 mins u def and miss few good chances.he is experienced ref..doesn’t mater he is from japan.players cheat everywhere.what happened wc 2010 finale? de jong and van bomel red cards…but nothing. And english experienced ref? Yeah right..

  15. Jake

    June 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    The thing about this game that makes it bad is that it was the first game. The tournament starts off as a farce and it’ll likely finish as one. This sets the tone and I expect more poor refereeing for the duration of the tournament.
    I know some are against a replay system but if the 4th official was in a room by himself with monitors to watch this whole issue wouldn’t have happened.

    • J Knight

      June 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Yes Im with you. I didnt see your comment before I posted my own. Why not use technology. They are using goal line tech this Cup. There are so few penalties given in any one match. A five min. replay once every few games on a Penalty given wont ruin the game.

  16. jason

    June 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    multiculturalism. you made your bed, now lie in euros love the idea of it but its pretty obvious it doesnt work and it takes sports to show it.

  17. Brian

    June 12, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    In order to ensure better officiating there ought to be a pool of officials who are in charge of all the major tournaments in the world; the World Cup, Euros, Concacaf, African Nations Cup, Asian Championship, etc. Otherwise, we’ll continue to have these discussions about poor officials.

    By the way, it’s not the quota system that is at fault but choosing the wrong people. Lots of European officials who are just as bad, as we see week in and week out during the regular season. Some of them are even at the World Cup. I guarantee you that we will be talking about another officials poor performance in due time. It happens all the time. Remember Graham Poll?

  18. goatslookshifty

    June 12, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Posting the photo of Mike Jones is contrary to your argument.

  19. Chris

    June 12, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    It really was atrocious. I watched the match with a bunch of native Brazilians and even they were upset at the calls. There is no doubt that the referees should be from the big domestic leagues.

  20. Ivan

    June 12, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Just finished watching the game on tape.

    Shocking, disgusting, criminal, and it started in game 1.

    Sad, really sad.

    The charade called “Brazil must win the World Cup” has begun…

    Brazil are pretty mediocre, by the way. I understand it’s game 1, pressure and all, but boy, they were bad today. Oscar, Neymar, and that’s about it…Dani Alves is beyond liability in defense…

    • Rick

      June 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

      I felt exactly the same. Not sure I can stomach watching if this is what we are to expect. One has to wonder if the Japanese refs were really that incompetant or were they just paid off.

  21. Flyvanescence

    June 12, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Do you even watch the Spanish league? Their referees are awful. The German, Italian and Portuguese refs seem to be the best in the Champions League

    • Jake

      June 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      The Spanish refs call handballs likes its nothing.
      See the Clasicos for examples of poor refereeing and supposedly the best Spanish Refs get selected for the biggest game in Club Football in Spain.

      • Flyvanescence

        June 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm

        Look at the last one. 3 penalties called, none of which were penalties. Neymar is a disgrace btw.

  22. AJ

    June 12, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I knew security wouldn’t be tight enough. They let a snipe into the stadium. I mean…oh wait, I don’t believe that either.

    Now concern will quite literally “bully” their way to the World Cup.

  23. Robert Jackson

    June 12, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Without a win, that city and area would have looked like Baghdad around 2003.

    Sure the ref just wanted to make sure he was alive and walking tomorrow? Lets be serious: if that wasn’t called, I’d think you would find this guy’s body missing in the A.M..

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