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For everyone's sake, let's get it right
ON THE BOUNDARY with Tony Becca
The World Cup of football, arguably the greatest show on earth, is heading for the semi-finals, and after the quarter-finals over the past two days, it is down to the last four.
Although there are usually surprises and upsets, disappointing teams and dejected fans at the World Cup, the last four is normally accepted by teams and by fans as the best, on performance, during the tournament.
This time, however, that is not so. This time, there are two teams, England and Mexico, and their fans, who believe that the last four in this tournament are not necessarily the best four.
Both teams are now at home, England after losing 4-1 to Germany in the last 16, Mexico after falling 3-1 to Argentina, and after England lost a goal which would have made the score 2-2 after trailing 0-2, after Mexico lost a goal to go 0-1 down, both teams and their fans are complaining and wondering "what if".
In England's case, a minute or two after they had scored a goal to make the score 2-1, Frank Lampard's shot flew off the crossbar, it dropped over the line, and despite the protest of the England players, the referee waved play on.
In Mexico's case, after an even start to the contest, Carlos Tevez scored from an offside position and after a long protest, after checking with his assistant, the referee ruled that the goal was legal.
There is no doubt that, according to the rules of football, Lampard's shot had crossed the line and the goal had been scored; there is no doubt that according to the rules of football Tevez was in an offside position before scoring the goal, therefore, the goal was not a goal, and there is no doubt that the officials erred on both occasions.
Would England have won the game had the goal been given, as it should have been, or would Mexico have won the game had the goal been disallowed, as it should have been?
No one knows, and based on the strengths and weaknesses of the four teams, based on the way the games were played, England probably would still have missed the boat, and so too Mexico.
The history of football, however, is filled with many instances of teams falling behind and coming back to win, of underdogs jumping in front and staying there, and it is possible that England, who would have scored two goals inside a minute or two after going down 2-0, and Mexico could have covered themselves in glory.
Unfortunately, however, England and Mexico are at home, probably because of no fault of their own, and it is an embarrassment that in this day and age of technology, that a team can lose a match and a chance of the title at the World Cup - the event which some believe is the greatest show on earth.
According to FIFA, and many referees, football is a beautiful game, the human element is important to the game, and something like goal-line technology, something which will help referees make correct decisions, something which will help to credit those who score goals and to deny those who claim goals which are illegal based on the rules will only spoil the fun of the game.
In a sport where both teams in a match enter the contest to score goals and to prevent the other team from scoring goals, in a sport where, most times when the best meet the best, goals are few and far between, to score a goal, to prevent the other team from scoring a goal is the essence of the game, and every effort should be made to reward those who score a goal and to prevent those who have not scored a goal from claiming a goal.
The argument that if it agreed to go to goal-line technology FIFA would then have to go all the way, probably to infringements down the field, is silly.
Technology, obviously, cannot be used for everything. The goal, however, is the heart of the game, in many games only one goal is scored, sometimes one goal makes the difference, the goal is what, basically, determines the result of a contest, and whether it is a goal or not is what the players and the fans want technology to decide.
Nobody wants technology to be used to determine a handled ball in the middle of the field.
There is also an argument about wasting too much time, but again that is silly, and it is not silly only because the goal, and the prevention of the goal, is the important part of a match, but also because of the amount of time lost when a player is injured, and when a referee calls up a player to lecture him.
In fact, on Sunday, the protest over the legality of Tevez's goal took nearly two minutes.
Another argument is that technology is too expensive and that if technology is used for World Cup games it would have to be used for 'bush league' games also.
That also is silly, and it is silly for the simple reason that just as it not needed in lower-level tennis matches, basketball matches, NFL matches, and even cricket matches, technology is not needed in 'bush league' games.
The World Cup is the stage provided for the best players and the best teams, it is the stage provided to find out who are the best players and the best teams, it costs a lot of money to provide that stage, fans pay a lot of money to see the best players parade their skills, countries spend a lot of money in an effort to win the cup, countries make a lot of money hosting it, and apart from the fact it cannot cost that much to have technology at the World Cup, and at the big leagues around the world, the World Cup should provide the world with a champion team that, based on the rules, deserves to be the champion team.
Some may say, and especially so as many believe that they benefited from the lack of technology in the final of the World Cup in 1966 against West Germany, tough luck, England.
On that day far away and long ago the human element worked for England. This time, however, it worked against them.
It is not as simple as that, however, and it should not be. That happened 44 years ago, that is enough time for FIFA to see the light, for those referees who talk about the human element and who want to maintain their 'power' and their control of the game to also see the light - to appreciate that it must be better for football, for those who play the game, and for those who follow the game, if the correct decision is made.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the man who, for so long, has been against the use of technology, has said that he was embarrassed by the mistakes, that such mistakes make nonsense of the game, he has apologised to both England and Mexico, and he has promised to look again at the use of technology.
It is time that, at least in the World Cup, referees get it right - that a goal is a goal and an illegal goal does not count as a goal. The stage is too big, the prize too huge for such mistakes.
Apart from the fact that the players know what has happened, it must be silly that thousands upon thousands of fans in the stands can be looking at the slow-motion replay of the action on big screen monitors, at something as simply as a ball crossing a line, and the referee, at the same time, is telling them that what they are seeing is not what happened.