Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Technology Could Save Soccer

This summer's World Cup tournament in South Africa looks like it could be on track to becoming one of the biggest sporting events ever. By turns it's been spectacularly entertaining, nail-bitingly dramatic, and capable of moving one quite suddenly and unexpectedly to tears. It's also been marred by the controversy of some blatantly bad calls.

Before their disappointing exit, the US team had two perfectly good goals disallowed in two different games. While neither of these goals would have kept the US in the tournament if they had stood, they would have given the US a more comfortable passage to the second round and caused fewer gray hairs to emerge on the heads of their fans and supporters.

England had what could have been a pivotal goal not counted in the loss to Germany that saw them exit the tournament. Argentina, meanwhile, scored a goal against Mexico that should not have counted, in the match that saw Mexico's tournament come to an end.

France, whose showing in the tournament was so disastrous the French President called a meeting with members of the team, gained entry to the tournament through a bad call that involved a blatant handling of the ball.

The problem that international soccer is facing is that 10 million people may see something, plain as day on their televisions, but if one referee misses it, a bad call can be allowed to stand. But thankfully there is a solution.


Goal line technology exists that could minimize the occurrence of bad calls like these in future matches. However FIFA, the body that governs international soccer, has been stubbornly against such technology for years.

In practically every other area of culture and society, technological advances are regarded as just that, advances. In technology! Where I come from, that's a good thing. However for one reason or another FIFA has maintained that human error is somehow integral to how the game is played.

It's hard to imagine such unabashed pigheadedness towards technological advances being tolerated in any other quarter. Can you imagine if doctors or aircraft controllers refused to adopt technology that would improve the accuracy of what they did on such basis? It would never happen.

Okay, you say, but soccer isn't like surgery or landing a plane. Isn't it? You think soccer is not a matter of life and death? What about the referee from the England vs. Germany game who is currently under police protection? Or the Colombian player who was killed for missing a free kick after the 1994 World Cup?

Soccer teams train for years to compete in the World Cup. Many of them carry the hopes and dreams of entire nations on their shoulders. To see the course of events be affected by human errors that can be so easily corrected with technology seems patently absurd.

Soccer is a sport. It will always be about skill, grace, speed, strength and athleticism. However if technology can be used to compliment the human element of the game and protect the interests of fair play, why not use it?

Isn't that what technology is for in the first place? To improve the lives of people?

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