Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Trouble With Referees

There's no doubt that we've seen some questionable refereeing this season and if last weekend's matches are anything to go by, it's spreading like a disease.

First up was Arsenal's 1-0 win over QPR courtesy of a contentious goal by Mikel Arteta. Rangers boss, Mark Hughes claimed the Gunners' midfielder was in an offside position prior to scoring the only goal of the match and video replays seem to suggest Sparky was right.

Had the referee made the right decision, QPR would have deservedly ended the match with a point.

Next was Everton's clash against neighbours, Liverpool on Sunday. At the dying minutes of the match, Luis Suarez appeared to have netted in the winner in a pulsating Merseyside derby only to have the linesman rule the goal offside. Replays indicated otherwise and Brendan Rodgers side were denied three valuable points at Goodison Park.

Nonetheless, it wasn't the only contentious decision in the match that affected the score. Everton's second goal in the first half, which levelled the score, originated from an Everton throw-in. Replays however, indicated that it was a Liverpool throw-in.

But if that was bad, it was nothing compared to the comedy of errors that marred Chelsea's match against Man Utd. After leveling the match to 2-2, the Roberto Di Matteo saw his side reduced to nine men as a result of two red cards.

The second of those two red cards, awarded to Fernando Torres after the Spaniard picked up a second yellow for diving, has once again brought out allegations of a bias by Premier League referees towards Man Utd. I think it was just another case of poor, and at times, incompetent refereeing by Mike Clattenburg.

Replays show that Johnny Evans indeed made contact on Torres left foot as the Spaniard was trying to get past the Man Utd defender. Some seem to argue that Torres went down easy. Who cares? The fact is Evans caught Torres' foot and not the ball which is a foul. And if Torres was diving, why did Evans go to ground as well?

Completing the refereeing madness was Hernandez' goal, which seemed to have been from an offside position, which gave Utd all three points. The Blues were, as expected, livid with the decision and replays do show that the Mexican striker was in an offside position when Rafael shot the ball towards Petr Cech's goal. And even Sir Alex Ferguson's post-match comments on the goal seemed to indicate that the Man Utd gaffer agrees with this assesment.

"They say that the winning goal came from an offside, so that's the bit of luck I think we got," he said.

Chelsea have apparently lodged a complaint against Clattenburg although it was to do with alleged racist and xenophobic remarks made by the referee at Jon Obi Mikel and Juan Mata. But it's high time the clubs come together and lobby for the introduction of video technology in football.

As I've often argued, it makes little sense for football to reject instant replays to assist the refereeing of matches. It's used in almost every other major sporting event and there's no reason for the football world to pretend as though it's still being played at an era where the television hasn't been invented.

With the use of instant replays, decisions won't be contested, penalties won't be wrongly awarded, illegal goals won't count and red cards would be issued at players that clearly deserve them.

With video technology, somebody could have even told Graham Poll in the 2006 World Cup that you can't award a player three yellow cards!

But most of all, with video technology, Liverpool, Chelsea and QPR would have had significantly different outcomes to their respective matches.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Koscielny Calls Suarez A Cheat But Likes Drogba?

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny has become the latest individual to voice out an opinion on the ongoing diving furor surrounding Luis Suarez but miraculously praises Didier Drogba in the same interview.

According to a report by L'Equipe, which has since been carried by the British press, the Gunners' defender has branded Liverpool's Suarez as a 'cheat.'

“He is tiresome to defend against. He cheats. He pulls your shirt, giving small blows. You always want to give him a kick but you have to be careful not to be red carded," Koscielny said in a quote translated by Soccernet.

But in the same interview, the Frenchman praised former Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba, a player who's just as infamous as Suarez for diving.

"He is strong, he is good when he plays with his back to goal, a great header of the ball and good in the gaps," Koscielny said.

No one doubts Drogba's strength of skill but it seems a little bizarre that Koscielny admires the Ivorian striker so much despite his distaste for footballers who 'cheat.' You would think that someone

Perhaps the following videos will refresh Koscielny's memory on some of Drogba's more theatrical moments.

Here's another one (please excuse the poor quality)

No one denies that Suarez has a tendency to go down easily but as I've argued before, he isn't the only footballer guilty of doing so and many before him as well as his current peers hit the ground with the slightest of touches. To single out Suarez on this issue is akin to claiming he invented diving in football.

But people seem to be talking about this subject with some pretty heavy blinders on. Take Stoke City boss, Tony Pulis, who suggested Suarez be charged retrospectively for diving while not volunteering the same treatment for Stoke defender, Robert Huth, managed to remain on the field despite stamping on the Uruguayan (an offense far worse than diving).

Then there's Sir Alex Ferguson who claimed earlier this month that foreign footballers are the biggest diving culprits. Age seems to be catching up with Fergie as he apparently has no recollection of Ashley Young's diving antics last season (It may have been a bad a day for the Man Utd gaffer. He went to claim that Nani isn't a diver).

Or, he may well have a point. Some of the EPL's biggest divers over the years have worn the red of Manchester - Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov to name a few.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quote of the Day: Luis Suarez

"This guy (Boyce), I've no idea who he is. I don't know why he has been talking about me. He certainly can't be well-known and he wants to get publicity. Let him carry on talking. My job is to play football and to try to do so in the best way possible," - Luis Suarez, as quoted in the Sun, on FIFA vice-president, Jim Boyce, who had earlier accused the Uruguayan striker of diving in Liverpool's Premier League tie against Stoke City.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Diving Controversy Continues

Looks like the controversy revolving around diving is not going away anytime too soon. The latest figure to jump in the fray is FIFA Vice President, Jim Boyce, who is also Great Britain's representative to football's global governing body.

According to a report by Soccernet, Boyce said: "I have seen several incidents recently, and I watched the latest Suarez incident two or three times, and to me it is nothing less than a form of cheating."

"It is becoming a little bit of a cancer within the game and I believe if it is clear to everyone that it is simulation then that person is trying to cheat and they should be severely punished for that.

"It can be dealt with retrospectively by disciplinary committees, and it is done so in some associations, and I believe that is the correct thing to do.

"It can at times be very, very difficult for referees to judge whether something is a foul or a fair tackle and if players are diving then it makes their job even harder."

This talk of retrospective punishments on players for diving was mooted over the weekend by Stoke City boss, Tony Pulis (see below for my take on that). And the diver in question here is none other Luis Suarez.

To be honest, it seems odd that FIFA's vice-president wants to weigh in on an issue like this. If diving can be punished retrospectively, then it's safe to say that lots of players will be carrying lengthy suspensions.

If FIFA's intention here is to curb diving, then surely there are other means to do so and one that the football world seems to stubbornly reject: instant video replays.

Just about every major sport in the world uses instant video replays to ensure that referees don't get to decide an outcome of a game based on a miscalculated decision.

Perhaps FIFA and national football associations believe that the introduction of video replays will lengthen matches as it could take time to review the replays before making a decision. This is turn brings up the next question: would referees use video replays for some or all of their decisions? And if they did use it for every decision, wouldn't matches get longer?

These are certainly valid questions but hardly enough to reject the notion of introducing video replays into football. For one, each match is officiated by four officials and very often, the fourth official's responsibilities include pausing the matches for substitutions and announcing stoppage time.

But another crucial responsibility for the fourth official is in assisting the match referee. If the fourth official is given a monitor that shows him the video replays all of us get to see at home, then he would clearly be able to advise the referee on matters such as diving. And it doesn't even take a minute to review the footage.

Furthermore, video replays would not only point out diving, it would also ensure that illegal tackles don't get away unpunished. If video technology was present at the recent Liverpool - Man Utd match, we could have very well had a different outcome.

Speaking of Liverpool and Man Utd, let's be honest about Suarez. He isn't the first footballer to go down easily although you have to admit that he is often subjected to some rough tackles. Just about every footballer seems to undergo some severe gravitational pull every time he enters his opponent's penalty box.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is Pulis kidding?

Tony Pulis is certainly a manager I admire. He got Stoke promoted to the Premier League in 2007 and is still in charge of the Potters. He's made them a permanent fixture in the Premier League and has transformed the Britannia Stadium into one of the toughest grounds for visiting clubs.

But the Welshman's comments following the 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Sunday is way off the mark. Perhaps it came out of frustration from watching his side spend much of the second half at Anfield behind the ball. Or maybe it was the fact that Luis Suarez made life for his back four a living nightmare all game.

To suggest Suarez' dive in the penalty box in the second half warrants a three-match ban. There's no denying that the Suarez went down easily but Pulis seems to have conveniently forgotten the numerous other occasions in the match when his players escaped severe punishment for manhandling - and in some occasions making reckless tackles - on the Uruguayan striker.

Case in point would have been Roberth Huth's stamp on Suarez which left stud marks on the Liverpool striker's torso. Huth escaped punishment for that incident. But since his manager is getting all righteous about fair play, Pulis can put his money where his mouth is by banning Huth for Stoke's next three games.

After all, isn't stamping someone a lot worse than a dive?