Ah, the World Cup, the beacon on football's horizon, the greatest prize in world football, and quadrennially the most poorly refereed tournament known to man.
Of course, many often forget, the pressure on the referees is sometimes even greater than that on the top players. So situations arise out of a lack of resourcefulness and a reluctance to move with the times.
The referee should now, in this era, be wired for sound and able to consult replays for a set amount of time before they become consigned to nothing. You would want a limit on the response time for decisions so that things do not become too drawn out and time consuming. Some decisions that have passed were certainly worthy of review.
This controversy is nothing new to the cup, and it continually amuses me how it is surprising to people that the world cup will not go off without a hitch. It always does, from the first in Uruguay, where complaints about refereeing decisions occurred throughout the tournament and into the final, which was won by Uruguay. It is nothing new to have complaints and the World Cup fails to surprise me in this respect anymore. Each World Cup I have seen from Italy 1990 to South Africa 2010, has contained controversial incidents that have affected the outcome of matches.
In the 1990 final we had Pedro Monzon's sending off for a mis-timed tackle on Klinsmann which the German made an absolute meal of to make sure the Argentinian got his red card. Gamesmanship at its worst. Later in the same match was a penalty that should not have been given, the player hit the ball and from the side, a legal tackle, especially during that era. Even now, it would be an extremely harsh call. Brehme slotted the penalty and the Germans went home with the trophy. Both incidents and many others are archived for all to see if one cares to look.
The following cups have followed a pattern of controversy and even fatality. Who could forget the marring of the 1994 tournament with the death of Andres Escobar. The Colombian who was unfortunate enough to score an own goal which lost betting syndicates millions of dollars. The stench of greed always surrounds this tournament.
In South Africa we have seen workers protesting as they are paid a pittance to clean up after rich foreigners. They have been attacked by riot police for daring to complain at the greed of someone else. The turmoil was reported as an after thought by foreign presses, an incident that flared up briefly and then was brought under control. What about the lives of these people, struggling to live day to day, then pushed aside by the great machine of football?
Football is a great machine. The only reason it has become such a machine is because it is great. The game in its purest form still excites individuals because it is a struggle with oneself to master the ball therefore giving you the opportunity to play as a part of a team and to be relished as a part of the team unit. All that is needed is a ball, players, and two targets. You can even practice by yourself.
This is the magic of football, knowing that each of the players on the field in the coming final have dedicated themselves to the perfection of the footballing art. The absolute obsession with, and improvement of, technique.
This at least can save us from the controversy, until we see the inevitable moment of gross controversy, an excellent example seen at the 2006 final with the sending off of Zinedine Zidane by virtue of the words of the third official, despite the referee not witnessing the incident (contrary to the rules of the game). In this final we hope such things can be avoided. They do however have a nasty habit of popping up and twisting the party in some strange direction. However, let us be optimistic, may it be a final to remember, a game for the ages, a universally historical occasion perhaps.
When it is over, and the trophy won, I shall breathe a sigh of relief and look back on another odd tournament, full of incredible emotion from players, coaches and referees. It is a remarkable spectacle and never fails to ignite people across the globe, however, there is always controversy and it invariably taints the tournament somewhat.
When compared to a league season where consistency and concentration are more prevalent than moments of individual brilliance or nightmarish officiating, the World Cup comes second place. Too often there are moments of injustice that pollute the result and take a bit of the sheen of victory.
When the 90 minutes are up it will be disappointing because the tournament has ended, but also a source of relief, as we can now go back to the more inter continental form of the game, where different nationalities play in the same sides, often as brothers in arms toward a common cause, rather than the nationalistic division that this tournament represents. We are one human race, nations are becoming a thing of the past, the World Cup is a part of this past, and could well be left behind in the future, as humanity aligns itself.
Either way, it is back to club football, the true heart of the game, and the reason it has such a worldwide appeal, the tribalism that is based on nothing more than a common belief, something beyond genetic heritage and the confines of borders.
It can be life, it can be death, it can be nothing at all, and it all rests upon the bounce of the ball. In all seriousness, it is not serious, but it can certainly become so if you would like it to be. Though I am glad it is over, I was equally as glad when it began. Hypocrisy is the refuge of the optimist, it gives you an opportunity to believe in what you argue is false, enjoy what you pretend to despise.
The champion will be the champion, it is the essence of competition, regardless of the decisions leading to the victory. In the weeks following it will linger, and then it will drift into the great void that is the past, archived and forgotten in the vast annals of mankind.
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