38 officials, from 37 countries and six confederations, equalled one disaster.
As we are finally putting behind us the revelation that the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals will be held in Russia and Qatar respectively, let us reflect on the summer of 2010.
FIFA’s grand plan to globalize the game of football turned into a disaster last summer, as South Africa 2010 saw some of the worst officiating in the history of the World Cup.
Let us consider the people we are really there to watch: the players and their respective teams.
As with all post-war World Cup tournaments, you have to qualify to participate on the grandest stage of them all by beating other teams in relatively close proximity to yourselves.
Funnily enough, it’s called the World Cup Qualification stage.
How is it that the so-called 32 top football playing nations have to qualify by being the best, yet when it comes to the match officials, it seems as though any Tom, Dick or Harry from any corner of the earth can take the field with superstars such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi Hernadez?
Case Study 1: Koman Coulibaly
“Who?” I hear you ask. Mr Coulibaly was the gentleman given the responsibility to officiate the now infamous USA vs. Slovenia Group C match.
For those who slept through June 2010, the controversial incident came in the 85th minute, when for no noticeable reason, Mr Coulibaly made the decision to disallow Maurice Edu’s close-range strike.
The goal would have capped a remarkable turnaround for the USA in a game that looked over at halftime after the Slovenians took a two-goal lead. His decision lead to widespread criticism from the International Sports Press and fans alike.
Coulibaly was not chosen to officiate in the second round. Why was he even there in the first place?
Case Study 2: Michael Hester
Yeah, I know. That well-known, incredibly experienced, FIFA-licensed referee. Unlike Mr Coulibaly, who is now pretty well-known, Mr Hester is far from it. This gentleman was selected as one of the top 38 officials in the world for the 2010 World Cup.
What of his experience? He refereed one game at the 2009 FIFA U17 World Cup in Nigeria. Also, let’s not forget his rugby union playing experience whilst pursuing a career as a naval officer. Standard selection procedure?
This was considered enough to have him lead the line for a World Cup group game that was never going to produce scintillating headlines for her majesty’s press, but still a game of huge importance: Greece vs. South Korea.
He didn’t officiate in the tournament again. Should he have ever received such responsibility?
Case Study 3: Subkhiddin Mohd Selleh
This FIFA-licensed referee from Malaysia gained the valuable experience needed to handle himself, and its lucrative megastars, at the World Cup after sending off three players in one game during the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup in Canada.
Mr Selleh’s legacy from the match in question was to send off a Portuguese player for "taking a card out of the referee’s hand" whilst he was sending a player from the field. I see this genius has a sense of humour then? This was enough to convince FIFA that he is one of the top referees in the World!
Whilst one can understand FIFA and their plan to spread joy to the world by making association football available to all, surely it makes more sense, and carries more importance, to see the quality of the game improve instead of what is currently happening?