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Monday, June 26, 2006

Referees, FIFA, Blatter: Crap, Crap, Crap

I wasn't able to see the game itself, having to rely on Yahoo!'s peculiar Match Tracker (whereby a solitary computer geek provides a running update of the match, interspersing his commentary with droll asides as to how Yahoo! should rule the world because of their wonderful World Cup coverage... well, that's how it feels, anyway), but I fully expect to tune into Fox Soccer Channel this evening and watch Italian defender Fabio Grosso tumble to earth like William Shatner in a Star Trek fight.

The diving has been abyssmal at this World Cup. For non-football fans, diving is when grown men fall down the moment a member of the opposition gets within shouting distance of them, flailing their arms like little girls, and screaming in Mediterranian falsetto for the referee to pull out a red card or give a penalty so their team can get the goal that otherwise has eluded them for 90 minutes. Despite their great skill at football, the Italians (along with the Portugese and Argentinians) are masters of this emmasculated art, frequently going down at the slighest touch with as much bravado and noise as their formidable goal celebrations. Eddie Pope of the U.S. got one of his two yellow cards against Italy when, whilst running alongside an Italian player, he was pulled down on top of him by his own jersey. The official, a Uruguayian who apparently has extraordinary vision problems, immediately pulled a yellow card out to punish Pope for his daring to allow himself to be pulled down on top of another player.

Frequently divers will trip themselves up on their own feet so that the falling will seem more natural and less like the demise of the bad guys in a Steven Segall film. All of this acting, this wild gesticulation, is in order to gain an unfair result against the opposition, and also to cover up for the fact that the player apt to do this sort of thing is distinguished by his lack of a penis or testicles of any sort.

On top of these dishonest dramatics, the officiating has been extremely foul. The referee in the South Korea vs. Switzerland match overruled an offsides call by his linesman because the ball happen to carom off a South Korean player, which in the rulebook is a meaningless dinstinction, but in the mind of a World Cup official who is plainly out of his gourd is of infintesimal importance.

In the U.S. vs. Ghana match, the German official, a full-time dentist who should drop the refereeing gig and return to inflicting needless pain on children and pensioners, and who was apparently voted "Best Referee in the World" twice by his colleagues (obviously at two drunken officiating conventions), gave a penalty in injury time of the first half when American defender Oguchi Oneywu won a 50/50 ball by virtue of his height and strength. The only fouls on the play was the German dentist's judgement, positioning, and attitude, all of which were excreable. By consensus amongst the sporting press, Onyewu's only offense was to be considerably larger than the Ghanian attacker, who wouldn't have won the ball if he was being covered by Danny DeVito.

Getting back to today's travesty, the penalty the Italians won was given in the 5th minute of injury time. This is of course, after the referee indicated that there would be 3 minutes of injury time. I suppose his watch was slow.

So, the officials have been incompetent, criminally negligent, and pretty much out and out wankers, pulling cards out and giving penalties just about anytime a match threatened to turn interesting, ruining several matches by needlessly expelling players for what, in any other league in the world would be yellow card offenses at most (the deliberate elbow by an Italian on Brian McBride being the notable exception, as even the Italians conceded).

However, to be fair, the real blame lies with FIFA, the organizing body for the world's biggest sporting event. Right before the start of the tournament, FIFA does what it always likes to do... No, no, not prolifigately waste money on alcohol and women of dubious professions, but rather to totally change the expectations of the officials and players by declaring they are "going to clamp down on [insert meaningless topic here]."

In this case, they claimed they would clamp down on fouling. Their strategy was to insist that referees ignore the way in which they have officiated the last four years, much less 4 decades, and instead give out yellow cards quickly for offenses that normally would have only received verbal warnings or in many cases (I'm thinking of the English Premiere League) been ignored by everyone, including the players involved. On top of this, they implemented rules against time-wasting by giving players yellow cards for kicking away the ball after it went out of play or taking too long to put a ball back in play. This strategy, which has seen numerous players rendered ineligible for matches in football's premier event, was deemed much preferable to the silly, practical alternative of adding more time to the match.

The result is that we have a World Cup that, despite some brilliant goals and play, has been tainted, if not ruined, by heavy-handed officiating. So, what does FIFA Executive President Sepp Blatter do to rectify this? He holds a press conference excoriating the officials for handing out so many cards.

Let's rephrase that a little to make it clearer. Sepp Blatter held a press conference to loudly and publically criticise match officials for doing exactly what Blatter and his other FIFA executives, the stupid, hypocritical bastards, told them to do. Blatter even went so far as to follow it up with another press conference, after the disasterously officiated Portugal vs. Holland match, to suggest that the Russian official presiding should have gotten a "yellow card." After Blatter's comments, there was much chortling and rattle of Brandy snifters around.

Will someone please give Mr. Blatter a red card and see this charlatan off for good? Then, maybe he can move from ruining the world's greatest sport, interfering with the national leagues, and distorting the offsides rule to the point where it is almost unenforcable, to his real passion of getting women's players to wear hot pants in the matches.

As horriblly sexist as that Blatter suggestion was, at least it wouldn't spoil the play.

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