Soccer Fans Urge FIFA To Use Video Review

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The World Cup water cooler discussion seems to center around bad officiating. Referees on the pitch are allowing goals that were obviously offsides, and disallowing ones that were obviously not. Fans and soccer analysts are demanding the use of video technology to resolve these issues. Melissa Block talks to the senior soccer writer for FoxSoccer.com, Jamie Trecker, about the controversy.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

At the World Cup in South Africa, there's been a series of blatantly blown calls by referees. And that's amplifying demands for FIFA, soccer's governing body, to adopt video technology to resolve disputes.

Jamie Trecker has been covering this impassioned debate for FoxSoccer.com.

Jaime, welcome to the program.

Mr. JAMIE TRECKER (Senior Soccer Writer, FoxSoccer.com): Hi, thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Let's talk about the first call yesterday that really brought this debate to fever pitch, and this was in the game between Germany and England. What happened?

Mr. TRECKER: Well, the Uruguayan referee, Jorge Larrionda, missed a clear goal by a player named Frank Lampard. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar behind the German goalkeeper, Mr. Neuer, and it did cross the goal line.

Everybody in the stands saw it, everybody watching on international TV saw it, and the people in the stadium saw it because they do have replay there.

Unfortunately, it was a game-changing moment. Had England scored that goal and been credited with it, the game might have gone into halftime tied two-two. As most people know, England went on to lose that game four to one, and Fabio Capello, England's coach, did directly blame that blown call for taking away his team's momentum.

BLOCK: Well, one question that is raised here is whether there should be goal-line technology that would send a signal to the referee saying hey, ball crossed the goal line, that's a goal.

Mr. TRECKER: Yes, and I think there should be. There is the technology available to see if a ball did cross the line, and there's technology obviously to give people a look from different camera angles to see if the correct call was made.

BLOCK: And you did have another game yesterday, Mexico versus Argentina. Argentina was allowed a goal that was scored from an offside position and went on to win that game. Mexico was eliminated. Again, calls for why not have instant replay?

Mr. TRECKER: Yesterday, again, it was very clear. Carlos Tevez did score a goal from an offside position, and what happened on that play is one of the members of the officiating crew, the far linesman, was not in proper position to judge whether he had scored it from an offside position.

It was very clear immediately on replay that the goal should have been disallowed, and what compounded the situation was that everyone in the stadium saw it on the Jumbotron.

BLOCK: What about simply adding more refs? There's actually just one ref on the field itself. He's running something like 12 miles in a game. Why not put more people either on the field or on the sidelines?

Mr. TRECKER: Well, FIFA has never wanted to take away from the central authority of the ref. And in fact, the referees themselves have resisted the idea of having other partners on the field.

Of course, this is not new to other sports. In American football, hockey, baseball, there are a team of refs that work. The only help that a soccer referee gets is from his assistants, who run up and down the lines.

One of the things that's funny about football, however, is it is still a very patrician kind of class-oriented game. FIFA, being a rather hidebound organization, is run by a great deal of kind of upper-class people, has always viewed the official as a central authority. And they've been more concerned with that than getting the calls right.

BLOCK: You do hear this, though, not just from FIFA but from some players, from fans and coaches, that the human factor here really separates soccer from other sports and that the free-flowing rhythm of the game, where the clock doesn't stop, that's central to what soccer is.

Mr. TRECKER: I don't think people that are pressing for goal-line technology or replay technology are asking for interruptions in the flow of the game. Instead, what they're asking for is the fourth official, who usually just handles substitutions and other technical matters, to review controversial plays and let the flow of the game continue.

The National Hockey League provides a good example of this because, you know, there are times when a goal is scored or a goal is questionable, hockey does continue play. And then if there's a decision, an announcement is radioed to the referee in the center. He blows the whistle and restarts it.

That is an example of how world football could move forward and embrace technology and at the same time keep the essential purity of the game.

BLOCK: Well, Jamie, something tells me this debate is going to go on for a little while longer.

Mr. TRECKER: I think you're very correct.

BLOCK: Jamie Trecker covers soccer for FoxSoccer.com. Thanks so much.

Mr. TRECKER: Thank you.

BLOCK: And there is a lively discussion about this subject taking place on our soccer blog. You can join in at npr.org/cleats.

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