Is it finally time for technology to come to soccer game?

It wouldn’t be a proper World Cup
without a huge slab of controversy. This year, Mexico fans are incensed about
an offside goal awarded to Argentina at a crucial time, and a small country
attached to Wales went into paroxysms following the non-award of a goal when
Frank Lampard’s shot was ruled not to have crossed the line against Germany.

Subsequently, both decisions have
been shown to have been poor ones on the part of the officials. Mexico, no
slouches, nonetheless were underdogs against a fancied Argentinean side who
hardly needed the assistance of a bogus goal. England, too, point to the fact
that had Lampard’s strike been allowed, they would have pulled the scores level
against Germany. And presumably then gone on to lose 4-2 instead of 4-1.

Sepp blather

Sepp Blatter, FIFA chairman,
subsequently apologised to the Mexican and English sides and said that there
may be a need to reappraise the use of technology. Football is a game based on
the fundamental scarcity of goals; bad decisions such as those we’ve seen in
this World Cup can potentially influence the result of matches. Technology
works in other sports, including the Hawkeye system in cricket and tennis;
video referees are commonly used in rugby league and American football.

It’s not as if FIFA are
technophobes, either. Far from it – some of the games in the current World Cup
have been filmed and shown in 3D, a relatively expensive technology that is yet
to catch on widely. Nonetheless, the association has spotted its potential and
clearly like what they see.

Hawkeye pierced

Arsene Wenger and English referee
Keith Hackett have both come out as fans of Hawkeye, which uses a bank of cameras
working at 500 frames per second from various angles to determine whether a
ball crossed the goal line. UEFA President Michel Platini said it could be a
way forward, but that he was totally opposed to using instant video replays.

“Football must remain human, but we
must also try to limit mistakes,” Platini said.

And that, more than anything, may
be at the crux of the issue. These controversies and poor decisions last long
in the memory. In the mind of many German fans there will be the sense that justice
has finally been done since Geoff Hurst was awarded a non-goal way back in the
1966 World Cup Final, which was nowhere near over the line (and Martin Peters
should have headed it in anyway, to avoid all this nonsense, but never mind).

All of this talk of technology is
fine and dandy, but the question surely is whether we really want to take away
the possibility that these controversial footy arguments can last nearly half a
century, span generations and connect people through continually circular
discussions that beautifully get nowhere – for hours. On such fervent,
irrational and above all, emotional elements, football truly rests. It’s a game
– an experience – of perceived injustices, superstitious rituals and over-arching
belief and hope, often in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. To
eliminate human error and over-rationalise the game is to deny faith itself.
Are we really ready for such a step?