NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What's the chance FIFA will adopt video technology?There's probably the same likelihood that it will stop handing out frivolous yellow and red cards to some of the best players in the best sporting event on the globe -- the World Cup. FIFA (roughly translated as the Federation of International Football Associations) has many issues to address in this sport, and granted, I'm offering an American perspective in a country that has been slow to accept soccer. But FIFA would do well to start with goal-line technology. >>Tech Could Be Soccer's Savior Frank Lampard of England's apparent goal against Germany earler in the tournament was disallowed because a referee, who is paid to watch the ball go into the net, missed it, even though millions of people around the world saw the ball land a yard behind the goal line. The issue of instant replay also came up in Mexico's loss to Argentina, when an Argentine player was clearly offsides but his goal was allowed, robbing El Tri of the momentum it had built up in the first half. The U.S. also suffered the reverse fate, having a goal disallowed in a furious comeback vs. Slovenia. The whole notion of offsides in soccer is a murky one, but it could be made clearer with replays from different angles. It's similar to a photo finish in a horse race; it usually is apparent whether the offensive player was past the last defending player, not counting the goalie, when he received the ball. Let's move on to the cards -- yellow and red, another area where replay could help. Now sure there are instances when the cards are merited. But there are plenty of instances of "flopping" or "diving" in which a player feigns injury or foul play on a tackle. The red card (two yellows equal a red), the most severe, results in automatic ejection from the game -- and provides perhaps the harshest extra penalty in all major sports -- disqualification from the next game. A memorable instance of a "straight red card" occurred in the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy, in which the French striker, the great Zinedine Zidane, head-butted Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the chest, sending him crumpled to the turf. (Granted, Materazzi did insult Zidane's sister.)
Had an official not seen the incident, would Zidane have received the red card? Maybe not, and perhaps Les Bleus would have had a different fate than losing to Italy on penalty kicks. In order to understand how tough the red card is for teams and fans, imagine if LeBron James fouled out in Game 6 of the NBA semifinals and wasn't allowed to play in the seventh game. Just the hue and cry from a loss of television advertising revenue would be enough to immediately have such a disproportionate penalty revoked. (FIFA does "clear" yellow cards for the final, so a player who has a yellow going in isn't at risk of being ejected, unless he gets two in the final.) And it's not like these penalty cards are always merited. In an earlier game in the tournament, between Brazil and Ivory Coast, a player for the African team approached Brazil's Kaka from behind, running into him but then falling himself, acting as if Kaka had injured him. The result? Kaka got his second yellow card, which resulted in an upgrade to red, and he had to sit out the next game -- for doing nothing.
Thomas Muller of Germany, one of the emerging young superstars in international soccer, will miss Wednesday's World Cup semifinal against Spain because he got a yellow card that became a red because it was his second yellow in the tournament. His crime was an inadvertent hand ball -- not to be confused with the blatant handball by Luis Suarez of Uruguay. Suarez blocked a shot by Ghana with his hand and was red-carded (rightfully so, because the shot would have been a goal). Ghana then missed the penalty kick, and Uruguay went on to win, but the South Americans will be without Suarez today, one of their top scorers.
I have followed the World Cup since 1982, and each year the tournament has become more fantastic. 2010 was unquestionably the year that this sport became embedded in the American consciousness. It is this acceptance in a media market such as the U.S. -- and the sport's commercial benefit by America's embrace of soccer -- that could lead to pressure for some changes in the use of video in soccer.
|Referee Ravshan Irmatov shows a yellow card to Germany's Thomas Mueller during a World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Argentina and Germany July 3.|
|Uruguay's Luis Suarez, left, touches the ball with his hands to give away a penalty during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Uruguay and Ghana on July 2.|
FIFA likes to talk about the human element of its sport as a reason for not turning to technology, and the same argument is made by baseball "traditionalists," which resulted in a pitcher being deprived of a perfect game, as happened to a Chicago White Sox pitcher this season. But it should come down to one thing: If a goal is a goal or an out is an out or a touchdown is a touchdown, and one person missed it but 300 million didn't, then do the right thing and use replay to overturn misjudgments. But please, let's not make it like American football, where the use of video has gotten so contorted and overused that you sometimes forget what was being reviewed in the first place.