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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Women's World Cup 2011:

In one of the most outrageous refereeing calls of all time, American defender Buehler was given a red card and Brazil was awarded a penalty kick for a complete 50/50 ball that both players were pushing and shoving and kicking for equally. This with America leading 1-0 and only twenty minutes are so left to go in the game. Before this point, it looked like America would comfortably beat Brazil, which couldn't create any opportunities.

This wasn't enough, however, for the referee to throw the game for Brazil. Because Hope Solo, America's goalie, is the best goalie in the world. She was good enough to even stop the penalty shot from going in. It was a completely legitimate stop. She only moved laterally along her line, following all the rules. She made the save due to pure excellence. But the referee didn't like the result. She had called the penalty kick and given the red card so that Brazil would win, not so that Hope Solo could save the shot and propel America to victory.

So the referee gave Hope Solo a yellow card, for being too good a player and stopping the referee from fixing the game, and told Brazil to retake the shot. This absolutely arbitrary power of the referee, who presumably would have given Brazil infinite rekicks until the penalty kick went in, was finally enough to give Brazil a 1-1 tie.

From here on, because of the red card, on a complete non-foul, much less a red card and penalty kick worthy foul, America had to play a woman down, with just 10 players on the field against Brazil's 11. Nevertheless, they kept it to 1-1 until overtime. Then thirty minutes of overtime began, and the referee allowed Brazil to score again by not calling a clear offsides penalty. So Brazil was able to get to 2-1 in overtime, playing against just 10 American players, only by cheating yet again.

At this point it was clear the fix was in and there was no hope remaining for America. How can 10 players make a goal against 11 in overtime, as tired as they must be, and as hostile as such a referee was? But America never gave up. In the 122nd minute (out of 123), Rapinoe made one more cross into the six yard box and this time, miraculously, Abby Wambach headed it into the goal, surrounded by four defenders and a goalie.

It went to penalty shootouts, the same penalty shootouts that Hope Solo had shown she could beat. And this time the referee couldn't do anything about it. America sank all 5 of their shots, and Hope Solo made a diving save for Brazil's third shot -- and we won. The entire crowd was chanting USA, USA, trying to retrieve righteous justice out of the referee's hands. It was a magical moment, a blow to the Devil and a hymn to God.

I cannot believe the absolutely horrible refereeing when it comes to US games in the world cup. This isn't the first time we were robbed. Last year in the men's world cup, we scored a go-ahead goal against Algeria, but the referee called a foul and took it away from us. He never explained what the foul was. He couldn't even tell us which player did the foul. No matter how many times we looked at the replay, it was clear there wasn't anyone fouling anyone. But we lost a goal because the referee decided there was a magical foul that only the Devil could see. It took a last minute goal in the 90th minute for the USA to overcome that referee and beat Algeria, too.

I am sick of referees deciding matches in the World Cup. We need instant replay and we need some sort of panel of objective, outside judges who can overturn a referee's decision. When it's evident that a referee simply has it in for one team and is no longer being fair and impartial, they need to be replaced in the middle of the game with a new referee who hasn't been bribed. That referee also needs to be barred from refereeing any game ever again. This was an outrage. People train their whole lives to play at this stage. To have that training, that entire lifetime of effort taken away, by a single corrupt, insane, or evil referee which no one has any power to overturn is insane. It's like letting a murderer walk free. Only she tried to murder all 21 women on our national team who spent their whole lives getting to this point, this game, this chance.

Millions of dollars are spent arranging these games, by national governments, and by fans. We come to World Cups wanting to watch a fair match, not a fixed match decided by referees. For a referee to determine a game with a single bad call is stealing those millions of dollars. It is grand larceny. That referee tried to steal our World Cup win and thus stole the money of every single person who bought a ticket for that game or any of our qualifying matches up until this point, and every single corporate sponsor who paid to air this game on TV for the broader public. It is an outrage to take that much money from that many people. It is an outrage to break these girl's hearts, many of them still teenagers, by invalidating everything they do on the playing field and simply handing the victory to the other side because the referee decrees it to be so. Buehler was in tears because she felt responsible for losing the World Cup for the USA. How will the referee recompense Buehler for those tears? Does she have any idea what she put our player through, what must have gone through her heart watching the clock tick down?

Soccer will never be taken seriously as a sport so long as these blasted referees and their fixed games continue to plague our highest and most prestigious tournaments. Instant replay technology has been available for decades. It has dramatically improved the quality of calls in football, basketball, and every other sport. Even hockey has lasers to decide whether a goal has been made or not. Only in soccer, like with England's game against Germany in the world cup last year, can a ball clearly go in and score, and then bounce back out across the line, and the referee can signal "Play on!" and not call the goal. That no goal demolished England's chances in its game with Germany and sent them home. Who will recompense the English men's team for that blatant error that any instant replay system could have caught?

There comes a time when as a nation you must simply boycott any further international soccer until instant replay is instituted, dives (people pretending they're injured or fouled when they weren't just to get advantageous penalty calls) are punished by red cards, and referees are required to call games correctly and answer to judges when they fail. I would like to see America simply withdraw from the Olympics and any further World Cups until these issues are cleaned up. In fact, America could invite the world to play at a new World Cup tournament, this time with honest referees and instant replay equipment, and simply preempt the World Cup tournament by making its own tournament the most prestigious and popular event in the world. In a few years no one would care about the old world cup that refuses to not cheat, and everyone would just play in the new world cup. Without the cooperation of the players and the teams, the officials who so arbitrarily wield their power today would be helpless tomorrow.

Nevertheless, USA is in the semifinals, as I predicted. I also predicted either Germany or Japan was the other 'good team' with a chance to win it all. Japan showed that my admiration for their play was correct when they narrowly beat Germany 1-0 in overtime. Germany was very good, but Japan was just better that day. They played beautifully. If all goes well, Japan will beat Sweden and the USA will beat France in the semifinals. Then the two teams I had my eyes on will meet in the finals. Whichever team wins then, I win, but like I promised I'll be cheering for the USA. They certainly deserve to win the World Cup after what they just did today.

It won't be easy though. France is a good team, and America will suffer if they overlook them. They only lost to Germany 3-2, and dominated England even though it went to penalty kicks for them to put England away. Sweden, meanwhile, crushed Australia and are still unbeaten, having beaten the USA in the group stage. Sweden's victory over the USA really didn't mean much, since both teams had already advanced, and both of Sweden's goals came from a penalty kick and a free kick, not through anything they actually merited by the quality of their play. If Sweden hadn't gotten those lucky breaks, and if a few more of America's ample goal scoring opportunities had gone in, we would have beaten Sweden. If we play Sweden again, I'm certain the same result won't occur. In a way I'm more afraid of our game against France, because we haven't played them yet and I really don't know how good they'll be against us. But I also expect Japan to beat Sweden in the semifinals and set up a dream match for the final, regardless. If they can beat Germany, they can certainly beat Sweden. I can't wait till the next games start this Wednesday. All Americans should be proud of our women's soccer team today. They showed a spirit worthy of the marines on Iwo Jima to pull out that victory.


Anonymous said...

Nice Blog and I agree 100%

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Anyone who knows soccer knows that part of the game, and what keeps it pure, is the human error factor of the referees. I think that the referring in this game was awful, but I don't think it was because the ref's had it in for the US. Having instant repay in soccer would ruin the momentum of the game. I think we have to look deeper into the problem. We have a squad of referees that are only women in a sport where women don't get much referring experience. It's time to have equal numbers of women referees as men so they can also get the experience they need to officiate these high level game. T

Anonymous said...

You are right on. I think FiFA should be sued in international court to change the system. Referees should be held accountable for their calls and technology should be used to help make this a game about skill instead of human bias. While there's no way to say for certain, the temptation for a referee to throw a game must be extreme -- if the price is right.