Soccer must leave Stone Age
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - If it makes its appearance in gradual, diligently thought-out steps, the biggest game of them all should have no special reason to fear the introduction of television-based technology.
VIDEO: Frank Lampard's disallowed goal
There is no doubt in my own mind that it is a massive step closer now anyway - whether the stalling lobby likes it or not - following the high-profile “Frank Lampard” furore in the World Cup Round-of-16 match between bitter enemies England and Germany.
The English sports press, whether broadsheet or tabloid, remains an influential and persuasive presence both in the English-speaking world and more universally, and will bang on about the Chelsea midfielder’s disallowed yet glaringly legitimate goal until the cows come home.
Or read: until FIFA bows to public pressure and begins to alter its presently intransigent attitude to TV replays.
A key element of detractors’ reservations, I suspect, is centred around their reluctance to turn football into a “time-out” sport.
The general fluidity of the game, after all with significant stoppages only for such practices as the arrangement of defensive walls for free kicks in attacking areas - has long been one of its strengths.
I sympathise to a good degree with those who do not want a stop-start culture to permeate the game as has become the case, say, in rugby union with its (often repeatedly reset) scrums, lineouts and, more recently, time-consuming pauses for TV perusal.
But soccer on its highest stages – World Cups, internationals broadly, Champions Leagues and biggest domestic leagues – has to move with the times in at least one respect, and that is to allow goal-line technology even if nothing else at this point.
Whether the ball has crossed the “chalk” or not, after all, is one the most plainly essential element of this game. Matches are often settled by single goals and have none of the bouquet of points-scoring options characterised by rugby, in which replays have most commonly proved more godsend than hindrance in recent years.
In the complex arena of cricket, too, technology has undoubtedly hindered the game’s flow to a degree, yet the referral system has also served to enhance public interest while simultaneously bolstering justice.
Only on Sunday, for instance, in a fascinatingly attrition-laced day’s play in the Bridgetown Test, the West Indies botched two opportunities – part of their designated quota -- to call for replays which would probably have led to the earlier demise of South African batsman AB de Villiers, who registered a dogged 73 to the tourists’ cause.
Goal-line video aid is quite simply a must for soccer, and a really good start.
Think about it: play need not even be stopped necessarily. A television match official could simply re-run an incident like the Lampard one, and only alert the referee to halt it if it has been proved beyond all doubt (as in Bloemfontein) that the ball has, indeed, clearly crossed the line.
Is it worth dragging the clock back a full minute or two, even, for the sake of a legitimate goal being awarded? Of course it is.
The sometimes less clear-cut issue of whether technology should also be employed to gauge goals from off-side situations and the like, or in the case of contentions penalties often involving attackers diving to con the referee into giving the spot-kick, could be something for another month or even another year.
Those favouring an all-embracing use of technology had their case boosted, illuminatingly, in the very match that followed the Germany-England one, where Carlos Tevez’s opener for Argentina against Mexico looked quite compellingly off-side and started a hullabaloo on the pitch and some argy-bargy between the respective dugouts.
There have been several instances, of course, of extremely dubious decision-making by referees at this World Cup, all adding to a chunky catalogue from the annals of history.
Goal-line technology? It’s the very least soccer needs to do to show it is prepared to sing from the modern sporting song-sheet.
It should waste no time in ratifying it.