Errors of judgement

A few controversial refereeing decisions in the first week have fuelled the debate over video replays. With the successful introduction of goal-line technology at Brazil 2014, many wonder if FIFA would now consider bringing in video replays to help minimise refereeing errors.

Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo… Yuichi Nishimura and Wilmar Roldan. The last two names arguably covered as much news space as the footballers for a few days, thanks to their controversial refereeing decisions at the start of the World Cup.

Nishimura was given the honour of officiating the tournament opener, between Brazil and Croatia, and he walked away with the spotlight squarely on him. While generally favouring the home side in all 50-50 challenges, he earned the ire of most observes by giving Brazil a penalty when Fred went down in the box at the slightest provocation.

Understandably, Croatia manager Robert Kovac was left fuming. “We talk about respect, that wasn’t respect, Croatia didn’t get any. If that’s a penalty, we don’t need to play football anymore. Let’s play basketball instead. It’s a shame. If you continue like this, you will have 100 penalties. I think 2.5 billion people watching on TV saw this was not a penalty.”

The player deemed to have fouled Fred, Dejan Lovren, was similarly disenchanted. “It’s a scandal — this referee should not be at this World Cup. Of course I am angry I want to cry now but what can you do.”

The following day, Roldan and his assistants chose not to award two legitimate goals by Giovani dos Santos against Cameroon. Although Mexico eventually ran out a winner, the debate over video replays gathered strength. Many wondered, with the successful introduction of goal-line technology at this World Cup, whether it’s a matter of time before FIFA considers this idea too.

Juggling with colours

While Spain’s 1-5 demolition at the hands of the Netherlands caused widespread bafflement, their kits evoked a few raised eyebrows as well. The Spanish were seen sporting a white jersey whereas the Dutch trotted around in a blue kit. The reason behind this was as complex as many of FIFA’s other machinations.

Since Spain was the home side, it chose to wear its traditional red jersey. So, the Netherlands had to change to blue from its iconic orange in order to avoid a clash. But FIFA didn’t allow this as it meant both sides would sport a dark-coloured kit. Spain couldn’t wear black ( La Roja’s away colours) for the same reason and the sport’s governing body instructed the country and adidas to submit a light-coloured attire.

One would think that with Spain’s switch to a white jersey, the Dutch could wear orange. But that wasn’t allowed either, as the Netherlands’ trademark colour was a light shade. Hence, white for Spain and blue for the Dutch. Phew!

It’s no April fool

Franz Beckenbauer is usually named among the few football statesmen, who carry an immaculate reputation. Yet, the 68-year-old’s image was slightly tarnished recently when FIFA banned him from all football-related activities for 90 days. The world body has alleged that the former World Cup winner failed to co-operate with Michael Garcia’s investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

Although the ban is a temporary punishment, Beckenbauer scoffed at the accusation. “I had to check the date at first. I thought it was April the first and thus an April fool.”

Yet, the whole issue is anything but a joke. Beckenbauer sat on FIFA’s Executive Committee that voted to choose Russia and Qatar as hosts for the next two World Cups. While the German insists that he followed the decision of his country’s football association (DFB) to vote for Qatar, The Sunday Times has reported that Beckenbauer visited Qatar for ‘business’ before voting.

After a few failed attempts to scrutinise the former defender, Garcia recommended that FIFA should impose this punishment. On his alleged refusal to co-operate with the investigation, Beckenbauer has said that he didn’t understand all the questions sent to him as they were not in German.

However, if Beckenbauer is to be believed, the ban won’t affect him. “If they mean my honorary presidency at FCB, then I can live with it.”

If only Ukraine had won…

Not satisfied with reading a communiqué by his striking players or professing his love for the TV presenter immediately after France was knocked out of a major tournament, Raymond Domenech has a new theory for us. It’s an idea that could have avoided a war. Unfortunately, we didn’t pay attention to this before.

Domenech believes that if France hadn’t turned around its first leg deficit against Ukraine in the World Cup qualifying play-off, the accession of Crimea to Russia would not have happened. Speaking to the French GQ magazine, Domenech blamed his country for the bloodshed.

“The Ukrainians thought they had qualified. If they had eliminated us, they would have something to cling on to by saying: ‘We’re going to the World Cup, let’s talk about something else and take on the Russians on the pitch.’ Involuntarily, we are perhaps partially responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.”

“When I see what state we put Ukraine in, it depresses me. If only Ukraine had won. We saw it in 1998 (in France, the World Cup winner that year), when Gross Domestic Product rose by 1 per cent. Confidence meant that people consumed.”

Domenech for President, anyone? Ant attack!

Of all the troubles envisaged by teams at the ongoing World Cup, this surely didn’t figure among their worries. Little they may be, but ants can prove to be quite pesky if they attack in hordes.

Uruguay’s training camp near Belo Horizonte was the first target of the ants’ army. Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was specifically attacked by the insects as revealed by the horrific image of his bed on Twitter. It was accompanied by a message — “Good day! See who woke us up at 2 a.m.!”

The trouble, though, was sorted soon by the camp staff and Muslera saw the lighter side of the episode.

“It was funny more than anything else. We found ants in the beds, myself and (reserve goalkeeper Rodrigo) Munoz who’s sharing the room with me. But it was fine. They came straight away and changed the sheets and we slept well.”

Mile or Mike?

A remarkably inexperienced side and tough group draw had already caused much hand wringing in Australia when Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s video message arrived for the national team. Before the side opened its campaign against Chile, with a gold and green scarf around his neck, the PM said, “Ange, Mike and the Socceroos, in this World Cup you have the opportunity to make the world game our national game. Throughout this cup we’ll burn the midnight oil as you take the field in our name.”

While Abbott got the coach Ange Postecoglou’s name right, he curiously chose to refer to skipper Mile Jedinak as “Mike.” Before the error was noted and the video removed from the internet, it had already found a place on news and social media networks.

Perhaps, many were not surprised as Abbott had pronounced Canada as “Canadia” on an official visit to the country earlier in the week. But, let’s cut him some slack. In the aftermath of the incident, it was noted that Jedinak was named “Michael” upon birth.

Australia later fought hard but lost 1-3 to Chile. The defeat brought more controversy, though, as forward Tim Cahill claimed that Chilean Gonzalo Jara had admitted to cheating during the match.

“He kicked out at me when I was trying to run past him for a cross and I pushed him away — and I got the yellow card. I called him a cheat. And he said ‘Yes, I’m a cheat, so what’. That is not gamesmanship... this needs to be out of the game,” said the 34-year-old Australian about the incident in the first half.

Drone intrusion

With time, teams have found novel ways to gain the edge over their opponents. Yet, the following incident was virtually unheard of. In the lead up to France’s opening match against Honduras, Didier Deschamps alleged that his side’s training sessions were spied upon from a drone.

Indeed, the former World Cup-winning captain revealed that FIFA had opened an investigation into the matter after a drone was found hovering over the French training base in Ribeirao Preto.

While Deschamps was clearly annoyed by the episode, some players were apparently amused by the presence of the military flying machine.

When the issue came up for discussion at the pre-match press conference, a Honduran reporter asserted that his country had no role in the incident. Without blaming anyone in particular, Deschamps said, “Apparently drones are used more and more. It’s not up to me. FIFA handles this and has been carrying out an inquiry; we don’t want any intrusion into our privacy. It’s very hard to fight this these days.”

The 45-year-old, though, hastened to add that he was not discussing a secret plan when the drone made an appearance.

Compiled by Priyansh