Welcome to the second edition of The Linesmen, Jim Gautier and my bi-weekly(ish) rant about things that we find interesting or things that bother us in the football landscape. From knitted boots to Sepp Blatter nothing is safe from our wrath. This week Jim and I will be writing about our opinions on four topics: injuries at the World Cup, World Cup refereeing, Water Breaks, and finally alleged FIFA corruption. So lets dive in with Jim’s take on the topics!
Injuries, Oh So Many
So of course on the top of my list is the amount of injuries we have seen so far, and pretty much no country has been safe thus far. Just on day 5 alone we saw just as many injuries as we had goals! Most notably Jozy Altidore’s hamstring injury, Christiano Ronaldo’s knee allegedly is holding him back, and there has been a smattering of injuries throughout, there has also been an isolated outbreak of the bite marks (called it). Black eyes are a common sight on the pitch. However, at the same time there isn’t a lot of control over black eyes; although the amount of injuries we have seen among these players, should be a wake up call that regulations should be put in place to ensure the health and longevity of our professionals. Between playing for club and country a lot of the elite players are getting run into the ground. The list of players who had to sit out the cup due to injury is a long list indeed. Of course on the other side of the coin we have Brazil hobbling around after taking any simple knock, or sometimes no knock at all. Either way, the injuries have been weighing the world cup down.
Reffing, Red, Yellow, Taking Out Players
Reffing has been inconsistent at best and often quite questionable. We have seen an almost equal amount of good and bad calls, and as I am sure Richard will mention, the best ref so far has been from the MLS! Set pieces and PK’s are quite costly. A few of the refs have even gotten a few touches on the ball, and we saw the ref take out (correct me if I am wrong) Jermaine Jones while going on the attack against Germany.
Honestly bad calls are going to be a thing when you have the pressure of the World Cup on each and every single one of their calls. But still, if you see an obvious clown take a dive in the box you don’t point the penalty spot. If you see a tackle from behind you don’t let play go on. Simple stuff really. Oh and if you see a bite mark on one player and another on the ground holding his teeth and a track record of biting people, its pretty obvious what went on there. But everyone wants to rant about reffing so moving on.
Water Break, Pass Around the Orange Slices
So the US vs Portugal game saw the first water break implemented in the World Cup. This water break rule is a legitimate FIFA rule for those who don’t know. Basically before kick off FIFA’s medical officer, using the readings off of a device that estimates the effects of the environment on the human body, decides whether or not a water break is called for after the 30th and 75th minute. Richard cries foul on this one but I agree with this ruling on several standpoints.
For one, injuries are much more likely to happen, cramps and pulls are much more common here. There have also been a few stray cases of death even in a few rare instances. The safety of the players should always take priority over the entertainment of the fans, better to have a 3 minute water break than an equally as long stretchering off of a player who tore his hamstring. In this particular instance between the US and Portugal both teams were slogging along on the field, it was becoming almost painful to watch. The ref timed the water break well to give Jermaine Jones medical attention as well as allow the players to hydrate and have a quick stretch. It isn’t like either team were on a goal scoring opportunity at the time either. In the end, people will whine at it, but it is a worth while ruling.
Corruption, Qatar? Really?
So unless you have been living in the dark as a football fan, FIFA is basically a melting pot of corruption and bribery. Enter Qatar 2022. The amount of absolute stupidity involved with Qatar winning the bid for World Cup host reeks of corruption within the FIFA organization. The whole thing reeks of absolute foul play to the point were there is a dramatically larger outcry to move the World Cup out of Qatar (grassroots stuff) than there is in favor. To add whipped cream to this ridiculous pile of cow manure sundae, hundreds of workers have already reportedly died constructing stadiums. The injustice makes the Brazil prep look positively shiny.
There is strong evidence that slave labor is being employed and the death toll thus far, an estimated 4,000 will die before completion. The sheer wrongness of that makes the usual 100 degree temperatures in Qatar look down right acceptable. However there is a chance that those in opposition will win out, it is actually looking promising. 2022 may just take place in the USA and Canada. Of course, if you can’t tell, I am biased toward my own country when it comes to things so this result would be amazing and clearly more humane and a whole lot less steeped in corruption.
Jim is our resident injury specialist, whereas, I’m about as useful as a chocolate tea pot, when it comes to talking about injuries. I lasted just one day in a kinesiology class back in high school many moons ago; heck I’ve been playing on a dodgy groin now for going on 9 months. But even with my naivety on the topic there is something weird about this World Cup. When I look at the players who have missed the World Cup due to injury or been injured during the World Cup, it’s mostly been players who have already played a full campaign. Perhaps playing the World Cup so soon after a full campaign is a “bridge too far” for some players? Especially if you consider that once the season was over for these players, many of the top clubs embarked on a money spinning tour of some far off nation. The World Cup happens once every four years, and we have medical science, I don’t understand the issue!
Also I am curious if the make up of the tournament has something to do with it. Brasil has staged the most ambitious World Cup ever, between Fortaleza and Porto Alegre there are 27 degrees of latitude, that’s NEVER happened before. Add in the fact that the organizing committee has decided that every team should play at least one match in the north and one match in the south part of Brasil and you a recipe for injuries in my eye. Setting up a team base camp is useless because it means you’ll need travel days to get to matches and to get back, so training will suffer, a lack of training begets a lack of fitness, and a lack of fitness begets injuries.
Refereeing: The Good, The Bad, The Bitey?
When the most consistent referee (MLS’s own Mark Geiger) at an international tournament enjoys a nickname in his domestic league of “The Geiger Counter”, you know that there’s been some issues with the officiating. The Geiger crew (along with Canadian assistant referee Joe Fletcher and US AR Mark Hurd) have been incredible, it seems that Geiger’s style of refereeing is perfectly suited to the international game (and yet not the game of his domestic league). If the crew keeps up their sterling work they should definitely get some action as the tournament progresses, and hopefully be in with a shot of medal round work! However, I’m going to spend some time defending the referee’s.
There have been several high profile gaffes in officiating, take for instance the opening match, where Neymar should have been issued a straight red card for an elbow to a Croatian player (he was issued a yellow), and Brasil’s Fred was awarded a Penalty Kick for backing into a Croatian defender and falling over. Refereeing is a thankless task (trust me I have experience as an ice hockey referee for a decade), and officiating in a World Cup is the zenith of ones officiating career. You want to always put your best out there, but it’s a different environment, and sometimes there’s nerves. Contrary to popular belief the referee’s aren’t out to get you, they’re trying to do a very trying job, and as well all know to err is human.
What we do have in the professional game is the benefit of video technology, given the alarming incident rate of players simulating to win penalties we could use the rugby model wherein the referee would blow play dead and refer the call to a video official who through an ear piece could in a few moments determine whether or not the official was conned by an unsavory forward or not (I mean it’s either a penalty or a free kick going the other way, lets get it right).
Also Jim, thanks for bringing up the Suarez incident! Here’s why the referee was right to do nothing. He didn’t see it, plain and simple, it was an off the ball incident, and the referee’s focus was clearly on the run of play. That Suarez has a history of biting players is moot, if you judge him on his prior reputation, you queer the game. You can only judge him on what your own eyes, or those of your assistants and fourth officials saw. If no one saw Suarez decide he was hungry for Italian while on the pitch in Natal, all you can do is note that an Italian player showed you what appeared to be an impression of a bite mark on his shoulder in the 80th minute and that the governing body would be wise to take a closer look at the incident.
Water Breaks: C’mon man!
I’m just happy I was playing soccer when this happened. Think about it this way, there was a time 60 years ago that if a player injured himself and couldn’t continue, the team would play a man down, they couldn’t substitute the player. We changed that rule, because frankly it was ridiculous, and I’ll be honest so is the water break rule. I don’t care about wet bulb temperature and mathematics equations from a Doctor, I care about the flow of the game. That the average Sunday league hacker can’t go 90 minutes in all conditions doesn’t compare to a professional, who’s livelihood depends on their ability to play the game for 90 minutes in all conditions, and if they can’t do that frankly that says something negatively about how they treat their craft. There are plenty of times we see players trot over to the sidelines to take on fluids, I don’t see the need to stop play so that everyone can go huddle around the dugout, take on water and have a bit of a chat. Call me old fashioned if you want.
However, I do have a solution to your point of injuries Jim, increase the number of substitutions. Up until 1953 in international play teams weren’t permitted to make substitutions, and then they were only allowed one and it had to be for an injured player. We’ve since increased the number to three and allowed them to be in any situation, so lets solve the problem with a traditional idea, and increase the number of players allowed to be substituted in competitive matches from 3 to 5, it would address injury and fatigue problems as there’s no way that more than 50% of an outfield side is going to require changing over 90 minutes.
FIFA In Corruption Shocker!
FIFA and bribery go together like me and beer, which isn’t good, especially as I am trying to shed a couple pounds. Everyone knows that FIFA awarded the World Cup in 2022 to Qatar (a nation which has NEVER qualified for the World Cup, despite its tremendous wealth), and I’m sure most people have put two and two together and figured out that a nation with incredible financial clout and no footballing pedigree will probably have been trading financial incentives for votes. Well at least you’d hope so! Because the thought that FIFA would vote for Qatar on merit is terrifying. Jim highlighted the human rights issues in the country, and lets not forget that in the summer Qatar is a place where football technically can’t be played.
As the media (and the average person) has begun asking questions about the validity and legality of the Qatar bid, noted short shorts fan and President of FIFA Sepp Blatter, has come to his organization’s defense. He’s declared that the people questioning the bid are motivated by racism; which is rich coming from the head of an organization who will be holding their next World Cup in that well known haven of racism, yep, Russia. Brilliant stuff Sepp, no really. We support the world’s most beautiful game, it’s a shame that we get the world’s most corrupt governing body.
That does it for this issue of The Linesmen. Something we didn’t mention grind you gears? Something we did mention grind your gears? Drop a line down below and we can have a chat about it.