No Outrage From Americans For Handball and Poor Officiating

H AndelAnalyst IIIJune 20, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 20: Luis Fabiano of Brazil and Siaka Tiene of Ivory Coast challenge for the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group G match between Brazil and Ivory Coast at Soccer City Stadium on June 20, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
Phil Cole/Getty Images

This is not intended as an indictment of Americans, but as a demonstration of my point, which is, that we are often or usually motivated by things that serve our self-interest. Of course, this is human nature, pure and simple.

A couple of days ago, the whole of America was enraged at what they perceived an unjust robbery of a legitimate goal by Maurice Edu, which the since-embattled referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed, apparently because of the tug-of-war taking place in the Slovenian's penalty area as Landon Donovan launched a free kick into the area.

I reacted on my part to the language ESPN commentators used to describe Coulibaly's officiating early in the game. I thought the language was inappropriate.  My point was not to defend bad officiating but to say that commentators owe it to their listeners to show restrain and use polite language in so far as it involves a public context. Decorum demands it, at least.

In a follow up piece, I observed that the disallowed goal might be a good thing, as it may prompt FIFA to reconsider its stance on video replays. With her media clout and influence, I suggested that the USA might be the factor that finally turns the tide in favor of such playbacks.

The need for this available technology in soccer matches became more obvious today because of incidents that occurred in the match between Brazil and Cote d'Ivoire.

First an in-form Luis Fabiano scored a goal that should never stand, and should never have stood. He committed two obvious fouls in the lead up to the goal, handling the  ball twice. It was a replay of Thierry Henry's blatant handball that Swedish referee  Martin Hansson or his assistant inexplicably missed.

If Hansson could claimed that the angle of play made it difficult  for him to see Henry's handball, French referee (oh, the irony of it!), Stephane Lannoy, has no ground for such an excuse. Two handballs in the space of seconds are hard to miss.

One may argue that the Ivorian players, themselves, didn't protest the handball and thus it is feasible to think that the handballs were actually not apparent. I would counter by saying that this is shaky reasoning since the Ivorian defenders were so engaged and engrossed in a frantic effort to win back the ball from  Fabiano to be able to see properly what was happening.

What is more surprising and hard to fathom is that immediately after the goal, Fabiano and Lannoy were shown consulting together, with the referee touching his shoulder and then his chest and Fabiano shaking his head and both grinning afterward. Interpretation? Lannoy saw it. And how could the lineman have missed both handballs?

There is no arguing this situation away by saying that Brazil would have won the match anyway. Of course, but they would have won by a goal margin. Remember, goal difference counts in this competition.

This could be the factor that hinders Cote d'Ivoire from progressing to the second round, depending on the match between Portugal and Brazil and on the outcome of the match between both Portugal and Cote d'Ivoire and North Korea.

To say it bluntly, Lannoy's officiating was simply bad. Funny thing is, nobody called his decisions stupid, and as far as I can tell, nobody is calling for his head. Is this because Cote d'Ivoire does not matter? Or is it because Cote d' Ivoire  has no command of the world through an influential media?

Thierry Henry's infamous handball that rob Ireland a place in the World Cup, Maurice Edu's disallowed goal that may yet affect the USA in the competition, Fabiano's illegal goal that may stop Cote d' Ivoire from advancing to the second round, are all instances of poor officiating and injustice. And to allow such situations to continue in international soccer, where a stage is afforded for peaceful interaction of people and  nations, is nothing but a mockery of common sense.

FIFA must do better than hide behind a lame excuse, which in essence means they don't care. Perhaps, what this lack of attention means is that this is a deliberate loophole to ensure that influential nations continue to win at international tournaments.

Who knows, it may be that the winner of this World Cup has already been decided behind closed doors. Remember David Triesman's bribery insinuation before the World Cup?

A point that may be deduce from this, is that outrages against such blatant bad officiating as this should not only be limited to instances where self-interests are involved. I would like to hear a similar outcry against Fabiano's illegal goal as that against the USA's disallowed goal.

I am sure that the most we will hear about the match in question is Kaka's red card. I'd not be surprise since this is a favored nation and everyone will be up in arms to protect its honor.

If we do so, we should remember that the Brazilian began the fake dives and writhing on the ground. They were only repaid in kind. Which is not to say that I approve of such a behavior anymore than I approve of Dungan's irresponsible reaction at the sideline, which encouraged and fueled the eventual situation.

In fact, the red card situation only reinforces the point I'm making. Had the referee the benefit of technological hindsight, the second yellow card to Kaka would never had been shown, since Kaka clearly did not strike the face of the Ivorian player, who conned the referee by clutching his face and pretending to be in agony.

On a different note, though I commend the restrained tone of ESPN commentators of this match, I'd have like to hear a strong condemnation of the illegal way Fabiano scored his second goal instead of the tepid way they commented on the two handballs.

Their studio analysts, afterward, did not even mention it. All that seemed to interest them was Kaka's red card and the end of Fabiano's goal drought, no matter that one of those goal was illegal.

When I wrote my opinion article on Coulibaly, some respondents to my article told me in essence that a spade should be called a spade. I'd love to hear it called in this case as well.