FIFA announced that it would stage a media Open Day with some referees, enabling reporters to ask them questions yesterday near Pretoria. Yet the world body went to great lengths to make a mockery of its match officials by laying down a set of "guidelines" - referees were not permitted to answer questions about their own decisions made during matches.
The only referee willing to speak to the media was Alberto Undiano of Spain. Was he willing to admit his mistake? God forbid. Rather he informed the press that he had watched a replay of the match he officiated between Germany and Serbia. If he were to do it all over again, Undiano said, he would still have yellow-carded Miroslav Klose for a second time.
Journalists from soccer-crazed countries are not surprised by the incompetent refereeing. FIFA, however, sees fit to humiliate the match officials by testing them in full view of journalists. There are fitness exams (for referees who have already been vetted and chosen ); tests to see whether they can spot a player offside; and noise tests, with the sounds of vuvuzelas blasting through the stadium speakers at a far higher volume than the actual decibel level during a match.
In reality, the referees are worthy of our pity. When they err, they are harshly criticized, even though they are not allowed to make use of the video replay that every kid can see at home. When they do a good job, people take it for granted. Someone once told me that being a soccer referee is a form of masochism.
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