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