Monday, June 30, 2014

Making more of a believer out of a fool

In looking out over our local expanse to see who has actually picked up on the fact that Mark Geiger is doing the US refereeing core proud I found "Mark Geiger flips the Geiger Counter" from The Philly Soccer Page.

It's not a bad read in general actually. It has pretty good, intelligent, largely articulate articles on The Game. Then again, it serves as a pretty good platform to bash referees as well.

In the article Earl Gardner starts off great, giving credit where credit is due in citing several sources and agreeing that Mark is knocking it out of the park so far in Brazil as our (as in yours too Earl) US referee representative. So much so that he even is considering at least a historical revision of the "Geiger Counter" which is a less than clever way to beat the hell out of Mark. Here is the comment from the article:

"You see, Mark Geiger has been the standard of poor or overzealous officiating in Major League Soccer for three years here at The Philly Soccer Page."

Nice huh?

So while Earl passes kudos to Mark for a job well done, his conclusions about how that has occurred shows what a true neophyte he is to the art of refereeing.

In essence he states that Mark's style is to let the match go until he needs to come roaring in to save it with some dramatic decision. Specifically from the article:

"Accept that this is the league’s culture and call a looser game, stepping in only when things threaten to get out of hand."

He continues by saying that this style fits International play at the World Cup and that Mark essentially got lucky that players are working with him because that's the only way he knows how to control a match.

Foolishness of that assertion aside that Mark (or any referee for that matter) does not try and at times successfully make adjustments to their decision types at a match or a tournament, it also shows a lack of knowledge, not only by the fact that referees for this tournament have been working international matches for months but also have been through lengthy training about how they want matches decided at this World Cup.

It also precludes the fact that adjustments by (US) FIFA referees going from MLS to Olympics to CONCACAF qualifiers to World Cup and up and down and all around happen all the time and frankly are really freaking hard. Somehow Mark has been successful at all of these ... why?

Because he successfully adjusts to the level he is refereeing. A concept that Earl dismisses outright in Mark's ability to "get it right" at the World Cup.

Do you wonder why many FIFA on a World Cup referees over here don't generally do regular league matches? Its to keep them dialed in to what they need to focus on, which is the international game.

Earl has no concept of this reality.

While he pays platitudes in "flipping the Geiger Counter" which is now miraculously to him a measure of how good a referee is, not how bad, the sentiment of the article falls flat, just as platitudes do.

So while Earl believes that Mark simply found gold under a rock that he stepped on, anyone with even a scintilla of soccer knowledge knows better.

It was at least a half hearted effort by Earl to give a referee some credit.

Credit where credit is due indeed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

53 Is His New Lucky Number

Referee designations for matches 53 and 54

FIFA has announced the referees for FIFA World Cup™ matches 53 and 54. France-Nigeria in the Round of 16 will be officiated by Mark Geiger. For the 39-year-old American, it will be his third match in this competition after Colombia-Greece and Spain-Chile. Geiger has been an international referee since 2008 and he oversaw the finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2011 and the CONCACAF U-20 Championship that same year. In 2012, he was in charge of two matches at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament and in 2013, he refereed at the FIFA Club World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, from FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: Outstanding! I look forward to another excellent performance by Mark!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

He bites me ... He bites me not

So for folks looking on at ITA v. URU we were treated to a pretty good match, and a gruesome incident in the 79' when Uruguay's Luis Suarez appears to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Take a look here for video and HD stills which may make the case.

Now I am not going to take up the did he or did he not bite Chiellini. My question is, if the referee did not see the incident with his very own eyes, can he take action on it? After all Chiellini and most of the Italian team ran over to the referee showing him what appeared to be a bite mark on his shoulder.

My answer to the question is a resounding YES! A referee can, and frankly should, take action even absent directly witnessing an incident.

Now be careful ... do ends justify the means? So in other words if a referee misses a tackle, and a player winds up with a broken leg, should they get sent off?

My answer here is a resounding NO! Just because a "bad thing" has occurred, does not automatically give rise to punitive action by the referee, there has to be causation, not just correlation.

That difference is stark. As an example, shark attacks on humans track with ice cream sales at the beaches that the attacks occur at. Causation? So are we saying that ice cream sales at  a beach cause shark attacks? Absolutely not, there is simply a correlation between the two.

(Please note the irony as sharks attack by biting)

Same inside the field ...

If a situation occurs that you as a referee do not witness, and assuming that none of the assistants saw it, 4th official (we know that guy!) and you can't somehow glean the information from (for example) the jumbotron in that small space in time when you need to make a decision, then you need to ask causation or correlation.

In our case, bite marks in the back of a player and the offending player holding his mouth is strongly causal ... but is it enough?

Referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez (MEX) did not think so, but I may disagree with that outcome.

Don't get me wrong, to turn around and send Suarez off at that point would take big brass ones, and likely (and wrongly) end the tournament for Rodriguez ... but is it the right thing to do for The Game.

Now, if FIFA fails to take any action, or any meaningful action (like fine Suarez) then shame on FIFA and it bolsters my thoughts to send him off and let FIFA sort out the protests.

In much the same way we would likely send off a player in a Sunday league (for their own safety) if they perpetrated such an offense, the same should hold here.

Of course that is not really true as the laws of physics change at this tournament ... but something so vile to the game should not be an exception.

By the way ... thoughts on a call here? Rodriguez knew something was up enough to stop play for something that happened behind the play ... so we have a free kick, likely direct. What about the send off (if there were one)?

Yes, Violent Conduct, NOT Serious Foul Play as it occurred away from the ball.

I'll update on punishment from FIFA, but as of now they have started an investigation, focusing primarily on the referees report (ya think those need to be well written?).

They do however have the option of (2) year or (24) International Match ban if they have sufficient evidence, beginning with the referees report. Check out Article 19 from the FIFA Disciplinary Code to see that little nugget.

From there, it will be interesting to see if they choose to use video evidence from the (34) cameras watching the match ... and if they want to ban one of their stars from their tournament.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Prepare for 120'+

Today re-taught many of us a necessary lesson ... which is you need to referee (or play) for 120'+ minuets.

During the Portugal v. USA match we saw two of the three teams remember this lesson. Portugal, who scored a great goal in the 95' and the refereeing team, who by my standards did an excellent job. Our USA team however, lost heir minds in the 95' and lapsed completely, allowing an equalizer that saw their Round of 16 berth quashed ... for now.

Some may ask me to give USA a break given their (truly) excellent play and come back from 1-0 to truly dominate 90' of the 95' of the match.

I give them the same break any referee would get if they stopped refereeing the last 5' of the match ... none at all.

If you set foot inside the pitch, be ready for the full measure. That means 90' plus extra time, overtime, and penalties.

Train and prepare for 120'+.

It may cost you a match one day.

It may cost Team USA an early exit out of this World Cup today.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beat that FIFA

FIFA bans players from wearing Beats by Dre headphones at the World Cup

You may have noticed U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley sporting a pair of black Beats By Dre prior to the national team’s first group game against Ghana, but it’s probably the last time you’ll see them.

Due to a licensing deal with Sony, FIFA has banned players from wearing rival headphones like Beats while they’re at official World Cup venues. According to Reuters, Sony sent every player a free pair of headphones to wear instead. ...

See the whole story here, from USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: I get this move from FIFA actually as I have been sponsored in the past and they get cranky if you don't use their stuff ... even if it stinks.

Not saying that Sony headphones stink, but I'd bet that the Beats headphones Bradley is sporting are far superior to what FIFA via Sony has provided.

There is a solution however that I have used to effect in the past ... put athletic tape over the logo.

Problem solved.

Then again maybe we should give them a break as they did put some degree of pressure on FIFA over the corruption allegations surrounding them. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Even in Legos it was a soft penalty

See it here, from The Guardian.

I ham happy however Brick by Brick is back!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interesting ... and Misguided

World Cup Mania: Figuring Out FIFA, Soccer & Tax

We are in full World Cup mode at my house. My kids are huge soccer fans (you may know this if you’re a regular reader) and they’ve been counting down to the first game (Brazil beat Croatia) for months. They’ve made posters and charts and insisted on buying souvenirs, including a stuffed version of the Fuleco, the armadillo who serves as the current World Cup mascot.

And predictably, they have peppered me with questions, mostly about FIFA since the initials appear on everything from Fuleco to the game balls. What is it? Who runs it? And their favorite question: who gets to keep all of that money? ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Forbes.

Kicking Back Comments: While written for a 5th grader ... "FIFA is also known for handing out some pretty important awards. " ... there are a couple of nuggets in there (in particular financials) worth looking at ... but little else.

Yes Ms. Erb, FIFA is doing exactly what it said it would ... robbing some of the poorest people in the world absolutely blind.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Hero, a Villain, and an Unlikely Vindication

Well then, it has been a busy first few days for the World Cup eh?

We opened with controversy right form the 1st match (match report) with Yuichi Nishimura. An experienced and frankly "safe" choice for FIFA, as I expected an exhibition match. No one expected Brazil to perform so poorly AND Croatia to play as well as they did.

As we know the controversy surrounds the penalty decision Nishimura-san made in the 71st minute to allow Brazil to go ahead 2-1. A pivotal moment in the match and one that I believe if not called, the match would have drawn. 

Now, I am NOT one of the conspiracy theorists that believe that this was all a plot to quell the protests in Brazil and the only was FIFA gets out with its hide is by Brazil winning it all.

What I do believe is that Nishimura-san fell for an excellent simulation from Fred. Alexi Lalas was very good in his analysis stating that is was the right time, place, and type of simulation to get that call. He was not particularly critical of the referee, and nor am I, frankly because Fred cheated to get that decision.

But honestly folks, this is the biggest of the big leagues and you have to be ready for it.

FIFA's refereeing director Massimo Busacca didn't do anyone any referees in the tournament a favor with his mealy mouthed support of Nishimura-san, saying essentially that if players did not touch each other, there would be no issues.

Wow ... stunning repartee Massimo. How about this ... we reviewed the replays and it seemed clear that Fred simulated a foul and even for this attempt we are fining him $10,000 for his lack of "fair play."

So now Nishimura-san is the villain, when it was really Fred who caused the issue. I don't think we will see him again in this tournament, sadly.

Our hero should be Ravshan Irmatov, (and SB Nation agrees) with his perfect advantage decision that allowed Switzerland to score in the 93' (match report). This was no easy advantage either kids. The foul was just outrageous, it occurred deep in the middle 3rd, and it was not clear if the player wanted to keep playing.

Irmatov was perfect and allowed the PLAYERS TO DECIDE what would come next. He let them play when they wanted to and set the stage for the magic to happen.

You see, here's where Busacca should be shouting. FIFA's headline should not have been,
Super subs play vital Swiss role, it should have been, Superb Refereeing Allows Stunning Result.

So now we have our hero, and believe we will see him again very soon.

Our unlikely vindication came during France v. Honduras (match report) where, you guessed it, GLT was put into practice.

Take a look at this article from Dirty Tackle, it sums it up quite nicely.

I'll be honest, the coverage on this was awful as the commentators themselves had no clue, and frankly were not aided by anyone in the booth at all to get the correct angle.

Also the crappy image to animated goal line looks was awful. Just give us the 10 frames right before and right after it crosses ... that's all we need folks. By the way, the low bidder GoalControl system FIFA is using should have this raw feed from at least 14 angles as that is how it makes the determination.

So for now, a vindication of GLT, but with a need to put a much better public face on it. While (and I'm taking this somewhat on faith) accurate, absent a clean video feed it was clear that there was confusion all over the place ... from a system designed to remove that confusion.

Also, and finally, with this technology I believe it has advanced the wrong discussion. Instead of asking the AR, "What did you see?" or "Do you think you were in position?", it now serves to absolve the AR as the question becomes "what did the technology say?"

It also serves to open the gate for instant replay from FIFA's Dear Leader. You think GLT was a nightmare ... wait for this.

In or out matters, that is clear, but so does the humanity involved in managing such situations from the people asked to manage these matches. Stripping away that humanity bit by bit comes at an ultimate cost or losing it entirely.

Friday, June 13, 2014

“Lots of luxury and little heart”

In Brazil, Jeers and Cheers for Government and FIFA

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil reaffirmed its reputation as a powerhouse of global soccer in the opening match here of the World Cup on Thursday, setting off street parties around the country, but its widening political fissures were also on display for an international audience.

Thousands of fans inside the new stadium made obscene jeers against both President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA, the organization that oversees international soccer and the World Cup, reflecting anxieties and discontents of an economic slowdown, spending on lavish stadiums and reports of corruption involving FIFA itself. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: With the FIFA EX-CO largely calling for Sepp to step down ... I hope he enjoys his final World Cup as FIFA boss. It would seem clear the Brazilian people largely will not.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Can @Sony Provide Us Help?

Qatar 2022: Fifa sponsor demands 'appropriate investigation'

Fifa is under growing pressure over its controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

One of its main sponsors, Sony, has called on the governing body to carry out an "appropriate investigation" into claims of wrongdoing during the bidding process.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times has published new allegations based on a leak of millions of secret documents.

Qatar were awarded the right to stage the 2022 World Cup in December 2010. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the BBC.

Kicking Back Comments: While I am very curious to see what an "Appropriate Investigation" looks like, I have at least some hope that if other sponsors get on board with this, we have a shot at a revote, and one that it will likely go to the UK, US, or Japan ... any of these would be great to see.

Let's see what their other sponsors are going to say.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

So True General Patton

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

On this, the 15th anniversary of Stephen A. Kokolski's death, I have been reflecting not on just that loss, nor the loss of the other giants in sport, and in humanity, Ernie Branco, Frank Hasek, and Frank Scarscella but more what these men have given back to the fabric of what we hold most dear.

Patton was right, can any of us imagine if any or all of these folks never lived or took on the things they did for us?

It is a staggering thought frankly and underscores to me why folks like this give more of themselves for such causes ... because in the most unselfish, unassuming way, they recognized very early on that the story does not advance if we all do things for ourselves only.

These men all deserve praise both in their own accomplishments, which unto themselves are significant, but also, what each of these men did for The Game and all who participate in it.

For me, that is their true legacy, and one I will remember on this solemn day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What's the Point?

What is the point of Fifa now it has damaged the World Cup?

Did you know that the last time the World Cup was held in Brazil, in 1950, only 13 teams took part? England flew there: the flight took 31 hours, stopping in Paris, Lisbon, Dakar and Recife, and when the squad landed in Rio de Janeiro three men in gas masks stepped on to the plane and sprayed everyone on board with pesticide.

I didn’t know that, I admit. Not all of it, and certainly not the pesticide bit, so let me heartily recommend Nick Brownlee’s new book Viva World Cup which boasts the above paragraph as an intro. It is a mix of historical facts and arcane trivia, just the thing for whiling away those empty hours waiting for a game to start by taxing your friends with a few not-so-general knowledge questions. ...

See the whole article here courtesy of the Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: This great article asks my favorite question ... why? In this case the actual question is why continue to go on with FIFA if it is unable to represent The Game with integrity?

There is another way of course. To leave FIFA and begin again. Start fresh and give The Game the honor it deserves.

More and more associations are hinting that way, but who would jump first?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Slick Willie Trashes Hotel Room

Bill Clinton Was So Angry When Qatar Got The 2022 World Cup He Broke A Mirror In His Hotel Room

Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Business Insider.

Kicking Back Comments: In reading the article Bill trotted out several "stars" including: Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman, and Spike Lee.

Yeah, this Spike Lee ...

Photo courtesy of Nike
Who would have thunk it ... 

He looks pretty good in the kit to boot.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Remember Kids ... Stay In School

Over this last weekend I had the rare and prestigious opportunity to give the keynote address to the refereeing core of the 2014 Massachusetts State Cup.

Our topic was "Command Presence" and seemed to resonate well with the group who, as I scanned the room, were fully engaged in the topic.

Speaking with a few folks throughout the weekend it was great to see that many of these referees were substantially on their way in a career. More than a few asked about work/life/refereeing balance and how I did it when I was a youth referee that eventually transitioned to the professional game.

I was more than happy to share my opinions of the difficulty of maintaining everything at once, but was also thrilled that most are seeing refereeing as a really good paid hobby (my words not theirs).

As I have said here before several times, refereeing soccer in the US is not a sustainable full time profession. Yes, I recognize there are a very few who do this for a living, but understanding what some of the salaries are, I personally ask if it is worth it ... and I certainly don't think it is a sustainable model.

I was reminded of all of this recently when I caught an article about Emma Watson graduating from Brown University. Here is a person that in all likelihood does not need to worry about too much by way of a career given her accomplishments to date, but she clearly recognized the importance of education, or a trade, and clearly took it to heart with her recent degree.

Read this now, believe me later, refereeing is not going to pay all your bills in the future ... go to school or learn a trade, and referee for fun without the pressure of needing that next assignment for a paycheck. You will be better off as a person and a referee.