WORLD CUP ’90 : Men Wearing Black Are Being Called the Bad Guys : Referees: From the first game of Italia ’90, it was made clear who would be in charge on the field. FIFA’s stand remains firm on use of replays.
The key to this World Cup may well be in the pockets of the men in black.
There, each referee keeps two cards, one yellow and one red. The first is to warn a player, the second is to expel him from the game.
So far, through the first 44 matches of the 52-game tournament, both cards have been shown with depressing frequency, lending credence to the argument that the officials are having more impact on the World Cup than the players.
It began with the opening game in Milan three weeks ago. French referee Michel Vautrot, who even before the tournament was being touted as the man most likely to referee the World Cup final in Rome on July 8, saw fit to issue four yellow cards and two red cards.
Vautrot expelled Cameroon’s Andre Kana Biyick in the 62nd minute and Benjamin Massing in the 88th, both for fouls on Argentine forward Claudio Caniggia.
Even though it was reduced to nine players, Cameroon managed to score a remarkable upset, but Vautrot’s seemingly harsh rulings signaled the beginning of a familiar pattern. In effect, he set the tone for the tournament.
As of today, with the quarterfinals scheduled to begin Saturday, game officials have issued 137 yellow cards and 11 red cards, compared to 112 and six, respectively, through the same period in Mexico in 1986.
FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, made it plain for several months before the tournament that it would not tolerate foul play, and that it expected the 36 referees selected to officiate in the World Cup to follow its directives.
Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, FIFA’s secretary general and a main proponent of the organization’s “Fair Play Please” campaign, defended Vautrot’s decisions in the opener, saying that such stiff punishment was necessary to discourage players who “want to destroy the game of soccer instead of letting creativity and genius flow.” He said Vautrot’s actions should serve as a warning to other players in future games.
“I’m unhappy the referee was forced to intervene like he did,” Blatter said. “But I’m pleased that he did.”
As the opening round progressed, however, coaches, players and reporters became increasingly concerned at the inconsistency with which FIFA’s mandate was being administered. Too, often, it seemed, a foul that earned a player a warning or even an ejection in one game was worth no more than a wag of the referee’s finger in another.
The three dozen officials chosen by FIFA are all experienced referees, but all too often they seemed unclear as to just how to apply FIFA’s get-tough policy.
For example, Italian referee Tullio Lanese whistled 163 fouls in the three games he officiated--an average of more than 54 a game--whereas Japanese referee Shizuo Takada whistled only 23 in the one match he worked.
Only one week after praising Vautrot’s handling of the Cameroon-Argentina match, Blatter was bemoaning the inconsistency shown by officials and openly criticizing some decisions.
In a widely circulated interview with the Swiss newspaper Berner Zeitung, Blatter said he was “disappointed and taken aback” by some “false decisions that should never have happened.”
These, he said, included “the hand ball outside the penalty area when the Soviet Union played Romania, the first red card for Cameroon (against Biyick) and the penalty for Egypt against Holland.”
In each instance, Blatter said, the referee should have consulted his linesmen before making his decision.
“The wrong decisions were avoidable because a referee at this World Cup must never judge by himself,” Blatter said. “We (FIFA) made sure that the referee teams were put together in such a way that there would be no language problems between the referee and the linesmen.
“But the mistaken referees acted high-handedly and wrongly.”
Included in those incorrect decisions, according to Blatter, was Swiss referee Kurt Rothlisberger’s sending off of United States midfielder Eric Wynalda in the match against Czechoslovakia. Blatter described the call as “clearly too harsh” and said “a yellow card would have been sufficient.”
FIFA’s policy of severe action against fouling is both necessary and long overdue, and West German Coach Franz Beckenbauer has also called for action against the time-wasting tactics employed by lesser teams seeking a tie right from the kickoff.
But Beckenbauer was quick to file an appeal after midfielder Rudi Voeller was red-carded and Lothar Matthaeus yellow-carded in West Germany’s victory over the Netherlands last Sunday. The referee in that game, Argentina’s Juan Loustau, also expelled the Netherlands’ Frank Rijkaard.
“In our opinion, they were two crass and wrong decisions,” a West German team spokesman said in lodging the appeal.
Beckenbauer said the uneven officiating threatens to turn the World Cup into a circus.
“Some (referees) are generous and some are very petty,” he said.
FIFA’s Referee Committee rejected the West German appeal Wednesday, meaning that Voeller will miss Saturday’s quarterfinal match against Czechoslovakia and Matthaeus will play knowing that one more yellow card will mean that he, too, will have to sit out a game.
Under FIFA rules, a player who is red-carded or accumulates two yellow cards automatically misses the team’s next game.
Beckenbauer hoped that FIFA would allow television film of the incidents as evidence that Voeller and Matthaeus were unjustly punished. The Bundesliga, or West German soccer league, has long allowed film to be used in settling disputes. The West German belief is that FIFA’s referee observers are ill equipped to deal with such matters.
“I don’t know how old the FIFA official in the stands is, or how far he can see,” said Beckenbauer, who in recent weeks has been scathing in his criticism of FIFA’s elderly leadership.
No less critical of the refereeing in Italia ’90 was Valery Lobanovsky, coach of the Soviet Union. After the Soviets lost to Argentina in Naples and were effectively eliminated from the tournament, Lobanovsky lambasted Swedish referee Erik Fredriksson.
“Fair play should be fair play for everyone,” the Soviet coach said. "(Fredriksson) does not deserve to be at this level. A referee like him can ruin all that a team has built up, sabotage its spirit. That is what happened to us.”
Even more blunt in his comments was Nikita Simonian, vice president of the Soviet soccer federation. Fredriksson, he said, should “pack his bags, burn his referee license and leave soccer forever.”
Television replays showed that the Soviets twice were victimized by bad calls. Against Romania, the Romanians were awarded a penalty kick by Uruguayan referee Juan Cardellino even though the foul occurred outside the penalty area. Against Argentina, Diego Maradona’s deliberate hand ball, when he blocked a Soviet shot with his arm, also went unpunished, allegedly unseen by the officials.
Rob Hughes, writing in the International Herald Tribune, made this comment: “A camera at that point would have picked out the horror in (Argentine Coach Carlos) Bilardo’s eye, the sweat on his brow. It would, seconds later, show the utter disbelief, and then the relief, as Bilardo realized the Swedish referee had missed the hand ball.”
The cameras, did, in fact, record the incident, but FIFA has long since made its position clear on not using replays to second-guess officials.
In April, in the semifinals of the European Cup between Benfica of Portugal and Marseilles of France, film clearly showed that Benfica striker Mats Magnusson fisted the ball into the net seven minutes from the end of the game. The goal was allowed to stand because Belgian referee Marcel Van Langenhove, one of the World Cup officials, was screened and did not see Magnusson use his hand.
Marseilles was eliminated from the tournament and one of its players, England World Cup winger Chris Waddle, bitterly complained that television replays should be used. Waddle was a member of the English team beaten by Maradona’s “hand of God” goal in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup.
“It’s unfortunate that in modern football there is no video assistance to deal with cases such as this,” Waddle said. “It would only take a minute, and there is no way they can say it would waste time. When a player is injured, it takes five minutes to start the game again.”
Waddle said FIFA should follow the National Football League’s lead and permit the use of instant replays. But FIFA remains adamant.
Michel Zen-Ruffinen, FIFA’s head of referees, said: “Even watching on television it took several replays to be certain that (Magnusson) used his hand or arm. And, that said, this kind of thing is part of football.
“We have had several proposals for (the use of) videos from (national) federations and individuals, but I do not see how we can use electronic equipment to make decisions in a match.
“The match would be completely brought to a halt as it is in America. Each disputed penalty, offside and free kick would halt the match for a decision. It is not practical. We must not dream.”
What FIFA is willing to do for the first time is support the concept of having professional referees, something the Italian and Spanish leagues have said they would introduce in the near future. At present, referees are paid only expenses and a small per diem.
On Wednesday it was announced that, for the first time in World Cup history, the referees would be given a bonus of 5,000 Swiss francs--about $3,500--as well as having their expenses paid.
The statement, by Giulio Campanati, president of the Italian Referees Assn. and a member of FIFA’s Referees Committee, is seen as a first step toward professional referees.
Also on Wednesday, the number of referees who will continue to officiate in this World Cup was reduced from 36 to 16. Among those remaining is Vincent Mauro, the lone American official in the tournament. Mauro will be a linesman in the England-Cameroon quarterfinal match in Naples on Sunday.
It is probably too much to hope that the final eight games will be free of red and yellow cards. The hope is, however, that their use will be judicious, not capricious.
“Referees in the main are men of integrity,” FIFA Vice President Harry Cavan said last week. “The sendings off are indicative of the fact that referees are carrying out their instructions to protect good players.
“The officiating here isn’t that bad. Referees are only human and make mistakes, just like players and administrators.”
Are more such mistakes possible? It’s in the cards--yellow and red.