FIFA Defends Referee After Controversial Penalty Decision in 2014 World Cup

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2014

Referee Yuichi Nishimura from Japan, right, decides on penalty during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

Many fans may have been upset with the performance of Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura handing a controversial penalty to hosts Brazil in their 3-1 win over Croatia during the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. However, FIFA made it very clear on Friday that it felt the beleaguered referee didn't make a mistake.

As reported by The Guardian, FIFA's chief of referees Massimo Busacca rejected claims that Nishimura may have favoured the hosts, while also explaining how difficult an official's job can be:

You think about the decision, you don’t have time to think ; ‘Ah, but I am in Brazil’. A human cannot think four times in one second.

This is fantasy. I am sorry to say this, but this is fantasy. We have to believe the referees are honest, and respect them. Maybe there will be mistakes, but we must respect them.

In refereeing, we have black and white but we also have cases that can be on the borderline. Yesterday, we can discuss; was it enough [contact]? Yes or no?

On the pitch, the referee takes a decision in less than one second. He is concentrated on the gesture and when you see the hands doing something, it’s difficult to arrive at one conclusion. The left hand touched and then also the right. If you play with the hands out, the referee sees that clearly and decides one way.

While some people have come out in support of the official on social media by defending his decision to award a penalty for Dejan Lovren's slight contact with the Brazilian striker, an overwhelming majority of fans and pundits have questioned the decision.

This includes Fred's former teammate Loic Remy, who even told The Guardian he felt the forward should be punished for simulating:

"Experience comes into it, and it’s important to fall at the right time. For me, the striker should be punished for this kind of wrongdoing."

BT Sports' Ian Darke also wasn't a fan of the decision, to put it lightly:

The Sunday Times' Duncan Castles got a little more personal:

Apart from the controversial penalty, Nishimura also decided not to send off star striker Neymar for an elbow in the first half and disallowed a Croatian goal in the second half for a very light foul on Julio Cesar.

Nishimura's controversial decisions certainly don't help the reputation of the organisation, with fans now questioning whether FIFA wouldn't allow the host nation to lose the opening fixture of a World Cup.

FIFA's decision to come to the defence of the official was expected, as the organisation has always preferred to close its ranks and defend its members rather than publicly acknowledge that mistakes were made.

The claims that Nishimura was ordered to make sure Brazil would win this match do appear to be a little too far-fetched, however, and while his decision to award Fred a penalty was controversial, if not plain wrong, Croatia had plenty of chances to equalise in the final 10 minutes of the match before Oscar scored the host's third goal.