Archive for June 15th, 2010

The future is Asia

It has been a good start for Asia in the first five days of the FIFA World Cup.

The opening match between the hosts South Africa and Mexico was handled superbly by two times Asian Referee of the Year Ravshan Irmatov while his fellow AFC Elite Referee Yuichi Nishimura was just as outstanding in the second match between Uruguay and France.

We live in a global football community, but before these matches many media commentators outside of Asia could not understand why FIFA should appoint Ravshan and Yuichi to these prestigious matches.

They should look at Asian football and realise that there are some outstanding referees in Asia who can compare favourably with the best in Europe or South America?

But the good start to the competition was not restricted to the referees. On Day 2 South Korea tore apart the 2004 European Champions, Greece, with a display of skill and energy and were well worthy of their victory.

Unfortunately Australia played poorly and their German opponents played well in their Group D match. Australia were hindered by the sending off of Tim Cahill, one of the few controversial decisions of the first five days,  but they will have been very disappointed with their performance and the 2 million Australians who watched the match live will look for better in the next match.

Cameroon, the African team that many think will go furthest in the tournament, came up against a highly organised and skillful Japanese side and lost 1–0, while today a well organised DPR Korea put up a tremendous display of defensive skills and commitment against tournament favourites Brazil. After going 2–0 behind they scored a goal in the final minutes for a final score of 2–1. Not a result predicted by the experts.

Being realistic, it will be difficult for an Asian team to win the competition or to feature in the final stages but the Asian teams have shown that they can challenge the European and South American teams. On the evidence so far, the gap has narrowed dramatically and this is a major plus so far from the tournament for AFC.

Maybe there will be no Asian team in the final stages, but could there be an Asian referee?

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If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Franz Beckenbauer, a World Cup winner as player and manager, was not too impressed with the tactics of England when he said “It looked to me as if the English have gone backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush. What I saw… had very little to do with football.”

The tactics of Fabio Capello’s team in the last 30 minutes of their opening match were certainly ‘long ball forward’ to their tall strikers Emil Heskey and Peter Crouch.

The tactics of other teams were different. Germany were highly efficient in their match against a weak Australian team whose cause was not helped when one of their top players, Tim Cahill was sent off.

Japan were an efficient fighting force, showing no little skill on the break and with a strong defence. South Korea were energetic and well organised in their victory over Greece.

Argentina had the attacking skill of Lionel Messi and his colleagues in their victory over Nigeria and USA were a well organised team against England.

The point I want to make is that different teams have different tactics and this has a major effect on the way referees manage a match.

A referee in charge of a match where one team uses the long ball must be prepared for long distance sprints to get into the best position while a referee in charge of a match with a team which uses close ball control and short passing must adopt a different tactical approach.

The second appointments for some referees have just been announced and the referees appointed for these matches will already have started to do their homework. They will watch DVDs of the earlier matches to identify the style of play the teams use and the individual players in each team.

That is not to say they are prejudging the match but they are only preparing in the same way as the coaches who will have DVDs of their next opponents and will be tailoring their team talks and tactics accordingly.

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

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Careless talk can cause problems

There have always been conspiracy theories about referees.

Some people believe that a decision was deliberately given to favour one team against another while others believe that there are conspiracies against their team by all referees for some reason.

But at other times referees make problems for themselves by failing to realise the responsibilities their role as a referee bring.

A referee cannot referee in a top league one week and the next week be seen as a spectator at a match wearing the colours of a team he has previously refereed.

There is nothing wrong about supporting a particular team. That support probably started when they were five years of age but top referees must be aware of their responsibilities.

At other times some referees become seduced by the limelight and media attention and make statements which suggest they favour a certain team or admire a certain player.

This seems to have been the case with German World Cup referee Wolfgang Stark who is alleged to have  stated on the internet that he admired Lionel Messi and wanted to exchange his jersey with him at the end of the match.

How naïve!

The Nigerian Football Federation rightly took exception to this statement and wanted him removed from the Argentina v Nigeria Group B match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 12th June.

The FIFA Referee Committee upheld the Nigerian protest and it was only through the personal intervention of the FIFA President Sepp Blatter that he was allowed to fulfill the appointment.

Blatter, correctly, did not want an off-field refereeing controversy to damage the start of the competition.

Blatter informed him that he would be at the match and would personally assess his impartiality. No pressure then but Stark had an excellent match.

It is a lesson for all referees, however.

 Careless talk can cause problems.

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