Stephen Constantine is the head coach of the Sudan national team. In his regular column for Goal.com, he shares his thoughts about African and world football.
The Henry goal is just the latest example. Now let’s look at this in the right context.
FIFA has done extensive research into certain aspects of helping to improve the game but it has focused mainly on whether the ball has crossed the line or not. This was looked into with the idea of a chip being inserted into the ball with the technology to signal if the ball had crossed the line.
They decided against this with the reasoning that it will take away from the human element of the game, and that this new concept could not be done universally, and while I agree with that to a degree. I think we should be looking to help the officials as much as we can and be thinking about this in a different light.
We have seen so many incidents where the ball has clearly crossed the line and the goal not given either because the referee’s assistant was not in the right position or the referee did not see it.
Then there are the other incidents that are ignored because there is no recourse in terms of changing the decision during the match.
Let’s go back in history to the most famous of famous incidents. Courtesy of Diego Maradona we had “the hand of god” incident where video clearly shows us he punched the ball in to the net. For those too young to remember that incident, we now have the latest version thanks to Thierry Henry in the recent game with the Republic of Ireland and France.
The Hand Of Henry
Much has been made of the fact that FIFA were going to fast track the current experiments that are being conducted in the Europa league and in some of the international age competitions with five officials and introduce these for the 2010 World cup in South Africa.
Thankfully that will not be the case as the evaluations of these competitions are not yet completed. I also think that even though you may have two more officials on the pitch who can advise if they see anything, it is still down to the digression of the referee as to whether he takes that advice or not and there you have a similar situation.
Recently Fulham almost had the wrong man sent off in a Europa Cup game with five officials on the pitch.
I can refer to a personal situation when Sudan recently played Mali in a World Cup Qualifier in Mali. We had a player clearly elbowed in the face that required four stitches under his eye right in front of the Algerian referee. Somehow the official did not see it and then he awarded the free kick to the player who had committed the foul!
If anyone was to see the video evidence then the player in question would have received a six game ban for dangerous play. The referee in question would have also been disciplined for failing to take any action. Perhaps had there been the ability to see the incident on instant replay the referee would have changed his decision!
I am not talking about every situation, just goal line incidents, dangerous play, offsides etc. All the top leagues across the world are televised so there should be no problem there, be it African Cup of Nations or Champions League, an official can see immediately if something has occurred and signal the referee that the ball crossed the line or if there was an elbow thrown.
There is so much pressure at the top level these days with peoples jobs at stake, careers on the line and let’s not even talk about the money and sponsorship involved. The game needs to be as accurate as it possibly can and be seen by all to be fair - as things stand, it’s not.
Look at other sports. Tennis has the electronic eye to determine if the ball is in or out. In American football where they will look at anything that could be an a deciding factor in the game. In Ice Hockey, when the puck crosses the line, a light goes on above the net - surely we can be using some of this technology for football?
Overall, referees have a very difficult job and they do it magnificently without any thanks. Why not help them to eliminate the inevitable mistakes?
Sometimes those mistakes determine the outcome of the game as with Henry, sometimes it is when a player has been brutally fouled and sometimes they can spark riots in the streets.
I say again 'instant Replay or not?' For me, it is 'yes.' I am certain that this would be in the best interest of the game.
Stephen Constantine, Goal.com
You can read more about Stephen by visiting his website.