Mark Gleeson

Let's return to basic values

2011-11-28 09:19
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)

Mark Gleeson

Howard Webb, who was roundly castigated for the way he refereed the 2010 Soccer World Cup final despite doing his best to make something of the spectacle, writes an occasional column in the British press.

This week he articulated eloquently the pressure top match officials have to endure under ever increasing scrutiny.

“People have to appreciate that with the tools that I have got – one view at full speed – it’s nigh on impossible to get everything right. Television programmes can pore over an incident, look at it from different angles and show why it was wrong. But there’s nothing sinister. I simply called it wrong from the angle I had.

“Players also make mistakes. A player should score from 10 yards and does five times in a row, but on the sixth occasion he puts the ball over the bar. Does that make him a bad player? Not really. It just means you can’t always achieve your goal.”

It is hard lot being a match official and as technology gets more innovative it is only going to get more intense.

But one of football’s many endearing qualities is still the human element; the fact officiating is not done by robots or off television monitors.

Having an intuition, a gut feeling and most importantly common sense is what makes a good referee and linesman and it is increasingly those that apply this credo that earn the necessary respect and accolades.

Admittedly this too cannot be easy, especially when games are tense, the atmosphere electric and the occasion can prove overwhelming.

Oftentimes it is experience that is key, providing the necessary acumen to deal with difficult occasion or make split-second, and potentially game changing, decisions.

Unfortunately that can no longer go in tandem with FIFA’s increasing requirement that referees be younger and younger. They are looking for up and coming twentysomethings these days to nurture for future World Cup finals. South Africa already has three novices on the FIFA panel - Lwandile Mfiki (30), Victor Gomes and Zakhele Siwela, both 29.

FIFA’s rational is that the pace of the game is so rapid these days, it can no longer be properly handled by middle-aged men. Indeed the age limit of international referees was brought down to 45 more than a decade ago. Now they are even younger and fitter these days, but are they wiser?

Sure you need to keep up with the game, be able to cover as many miles as a top athlete and still have your wits about you to make crucial decisions. But let us not also forget the value of a wise old head and miles under the bonnet.

In the Premier Soccer League there have been too many silly decisions made by officials of late, mostly devoid of good old common sense, After several seasons of rapidly improving officiating, we are suddenly in a quagmire of mediocrity again.

Returning to basic values will a good point of departure in the search for excellence.

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