The complaints in regards to World Championship refereeing has reached a crescendo, at least in France. Here is a sampling of quotes from an article in Lance Armstrong’s favorite newspaper, L’Equipe.
Francois Garcia, Former French International Referee and Chairman of French Federation Referee Commission: “The more we need to improve, the less we improve. Currently, there are only 3 International pairs who are capable of handling matches at the highest level (the German, Spanish and French refs) The roof could fall on their head and it wouldn’t bother them. There are other refs that aren’t bad, but they aren’t ready for the big games. The Swedish refs, Thursday, decided to let the teams play. They weren’t very good a calling “passive play,” but I wasn’t really upset until the end of the match. Guigou’s goal should have been awarded. No more, no less.”
Philippe Bana, French Federation Technical Director: “There is a crisis in the management of referees. The commission is pressured and influenced.”
Nonattributed (presumably the opinion of reporter, Philippe Pailhories): “The commission is led by an… American, Christer Ahl, who is neither charismatic or truly qualified.” (note the “…” is in the actual text, as if to emphasize the preposterousness that an “American” would lead such an important commission.
Now, I’ve seen all of the French matches, and I think it’s safe to say, that the officiating in the match against Germany wasn’t the best. At times I was wondering when, if ever, a German defender would get called for a two minute penalty. That being said, you’ve got to expect that a the home team is going to get the benefit of the doubt on most calls. Where the French really came up short was in their inability to push a 2 goal lead up to 3 or 4 as they could and should have done on several occasions. In failing to do so, they failed to take the crowd out of the game and let the outcome of the game turn on some referee decisions.
To simply blame the officiating or the selection of the officials is simply bogus. One would think that Norway and Sweden, with strong handball traditions could also come up with at least 1 pair of refs able to handle the pressure as well as the super-refs from Germany, Spain and France. And having known Christer Ahl for many years, I will say that he may not be overly charismatic, but I would hardly look for that quality in selecting a Chairman for the Playing Rules and Referees Commission. From my own personal experience I would certainly say that one would be hard pressed to question his integrity and sense of fair-play- two qualities that I would look for in this committee. And as American he certainly can’t be accused of a bias in referee selection. Just imagine the quotes if a German was the Head of the Commission.
The bottom line is that some evenly matched teams have played some unbelievably close games. 2 semifinal games both decided in double overtime. Logic only dictates that such games are going to hinge on a number of key plays and close calls. I daresay that even a perfectly called game would probably have gotten a lot of scrutiny.