The Olympics Highlight All That is Wrong in Soccer
The Canadian women’s semi-final loss against the USA in Olympic Soccer is demonstrative of why Soccer, as a sport, is unwatchable. The referees have too much discretion, there is no impartial appeal (such as video replay) and penalties incurred for infractions are not conducive to fair play. The Yellow/Red Card system is too capricious and would be better replaced with a penalty system – as it is with Hockey.
How can a call that hasn’t been made in elite Soccer since 2002 be the defining factor in an Olympic semi-final match that determines who moves on to a gold medal game? The rule clearly states 6 seconds is the length of time a goalkeeper may hold onto the ball, but there is no “hold clock” comparable to a “Shot clock” in basketball and the rule is capriciously applied by refs. Hope Solo, the US goalkeeper, held the ball for 15 seconds a short time later in the same game and, undoubtedly, earlier in the game. In fact, it’s almost a certainty that goaltenders in multiple games throughout the Olympics both before and after, have held the ball for longer than 6 seconds. So why was this called at that moment against Canada?
The typical response I’ve seen is that it is up to the ref’s discretion. Well, if the rule is 6 seconds, the rule is 6 seconds. There should be no discretion involved. In reality, the reason the call was made was due, in large measure, to an American player counting off seconds in the ear of the ref while the Canadian goaltender was holding the ball. So, due to this manipulative tactic from the US player, the ref succumbed to pressure and made the call. It was a weak fortitude of a ref on a discretionary call. This actually underscores the real problem with soccer. The ref’s have too much discretion, player’s appeals are, as a result, rewarded and have too much impact on the game. There are no video replays or coach challenges to off-set the power of the drama/acting of one particular player. To illustrate my point, please watch the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtIR-HYgKyY&feature=related and also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCGc_ngufDM
Before anybody goes sideways and says diving happens in every sport, I agree. It does, but in no other sport does it go so unchecked with counter measures (such as video replay and coach challenges of calls) and in no other sport is it so rewarded at such critical times in the game. As a fan of competitive sport, I can’t stand watching it for that very reason. The dives are incensing!
To add dramatic insult to injury, when the Canadian team complains of the injustice after the game, FIFA launches an investigation into the Canadian team for their insolence. Sadly, the Canadian team responded by saying that they hoped FIFA would understand the passion of the Canadian players after the loss and forgive them. Forgive them?!? They should THANK them for pointing out the farce that is soccer officiating. What an atrocity.
What could FIFA do to make Soccer even remotely watchable? FIFA should institute a video replay and coach challenge to calls. They should also replace the yellow card/red card system with penalties that can punish a team for an appropriate amount of time by removing a player from the field for a brief period. This approach would increase the opportunity for scoring chances (which may make the game more watchable) as punishment and still allow for game misconduct penalties for grave infractions. These changes would simultaneously improve the game’s “watchability” and obviate the egregious injustices that come in the form of that call against Canada by the Norwegian ref who had a US “competitor” chirping in her ear.
Let the Soccer (a.k.a. Football) fanatics commence their spewing of vitriolic and dramatic rage (a la Ronaldo). Engage!