CBF and FIFA Referee Disagreement Tip of Brazilian Football Iceberg

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportOctober 3, 2014

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 24: Leo Moura (C) of Flamengo speaks with referee Andre Luiz de Freitas Castro during the match between Sao Paulo and Flamengo for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Estadio do Morumbi on September 24, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

On what should have been a special night for Robinho, the headlines suddenly turned sour. Last Wednesday evening, the Santos forward netted twice in a 3-2 win over Botafogo at the Maracana that puts the Vila Belmiro outfit within touching distance of the Copa do Brasil's final four.

But the 30-year-old's night was spoilt in the second half when he was sent off for a second bookable offence, which was, frankly, laughable. After being felled by Botafogo's Airton, Robinho was shown a second yellow card for what was judged to be a dive.

The player himself was apoplectic with rage, and one can certainly understand his frustrations. Wagging his finger frantically in the face of the referee, it was the sour end to what should have been a successful evening.

Robinho's histrionics and verbal abuse of the official admittedly let him down after the incident. But it was yet another major refereeing error in domestic Brazilian football which is fast becoming a tediously consistent theme, and in turn is hurting the already maligned club competitions.

Measures are now being taken against what have been a series of gross errors in club football over recent weeks in relation to the handball offence. Yesterday, the captains of the 20 participating clubs in the Campeonato Brasileiro were invited to a meeting with the Brazilian Football Confederation to discuss what has spiralled into a contentious issue.

Sergio Correa, president of the CBF's refereeing commission, asked for patience for new referees, as reported by Globo Esporte (link in Portuguese), but several incidents stick in the mind from recent rounds in the Brasileirao.

Just last week, in the 2-2 draw between Sao Paulo and Flamengo, an incredible penalty was awarded for the former when the ball struck Flamengo defender Samir on the hand. Not only was the contact unintentional, the ball spinning up off the turf, the offence, such as it was, occurred outside the area.

A further incident involving Flamengo a week previously went in the Rubro-Negro's favour. Former Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva clearly used a hand to control the ball and set up Alecsandro to head home, with the referee taking no action.

The tense Paulista derby between Corinthians and Sao Paulo was also tinged by controversy. Corinthians equalised from a dubious penalty after the ball had struck Sao Paulo defender Antonio Carlos on the arm.

The Corinthians v Sao Paulo derby was marred by refereeing error.
The Corinthians v Sao Paulo derby was marred by refereeing error.Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Now, there appears the need for great debate on the rudimentary rules of the game. Yet surely this step should not be necessary.

There is an old saying that the English invented the game but the Brazilians perfected it. But the state of the club game in Brazil is far from perfect.

Why should this action need to be taken? How on earth has the situation deteriorated so drastically that all club captains need to be called to a meeting, alongside an instructor from FIFA, to be taken through, like a group of unruly school children, the application of the rules?

The laws of the game have not changed. Accidental handball is still not a foul.

But the CBF and FIFA have been on the rulebook warpath. The CBF had directed its referees to mark a penalty whenever the ball touched a hand, regardless of intent, as reported by the Diario Catarinense (link in Portuguese).

Unsurprisingly, FIFA ruled them to be in the wrong. It is a move that is baffling as it is arrogant, and it speaks to a system that is vastly outdated and a house that needs spring cleaning.

The CBF, for a catalogue of reasons that could fill an anthology, are far behind the times and this latest melodrama, so easily avoided just by simple adherence to the rules, speaks of a group so out of touch with reality it is frightening for the club game's future in Brazil.

If the most basic of guidelines are being flagrantly ignored, what hope is there for fair competition?

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