World Cup 2014: Off The Pitch – Part One
Since the World Cup began with its opening match today, I decided that a great way to celebrate my favorite event in sport would be with a series chronicling my favorite (and not-so-favorite) moments from the tournament.
So here begins World Cup 2014: Off The Pitch – Part One
Today marks the first match day of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This year’s World Cup, hosted by previous world champion Brazil, is off to an inauspicious start as its first match was marred by a number of controversial calls by referees.
FIFA, the governing body of football worldwide, has been under criticism for its business practices regarding its dealings with the host country–which should come as no surprise given the several allegations of corruption hurled at the organization for years. In short, FIFA has made it clear that its interests supersede those of the World Cup’s host country and the football community at large. From forcing a struggling economy to build multimillion-dollar stadiums and enact laws at the federal level to benefit World Cup sponsors to claiming tax-exempt status, placing the burden on the Brazilian taxpayer, FIFA has quickly established itself as the storm cloud raining over our beautiful game. For some hysterical and poignant insight into FIFA’s shenanigans, check out this clip from John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight.
Like John Oliver, I’m a huge fan of football. For me, football is a religious experience, and the World Cup is the greatest and most important event in the world of sport. But after watching the first match from this year’s proceedings, I fear that this tournament is destined to disappoint fans in a major way.
FIFA referees have been known to take bribes and fix matches in the past. Seeing this kind of behavior–while monumentally disappointing–has become expected. And to see such awful calls made by referees in the very first match of this year’s World Cup is tremendously upsetting. As a community, football fans have come to accept that there will be bad calls–referees are human after all, and that’s fine. But when calls are made where there was blatantly no foul made, and one team gets more favorable calls during a match than the other, it becomes clear that someone on the pitch is not respecting the beautiful game.
Did Fred take a dive to draw the penalty call?
In today’s match, hosts Brazil took on Croatia. The match as a whole was fairly disappointing from a technical aspect. But what was far more disappointing was official Yuichi Nishimura’s controversial call in the 69th minute, resulting in a penalty kick goal for Brazil in the 71st minute. The call in question came when Dejan Lovren of Croatia allegedly committed a foul against Brazilian Fred in the penalty box. Nishimura booked Lovren with a Yellow Card and awarded the PK to Brazil. That may have been what Nishimura saw, but everyone else in the world was watching a different game.
It seems clear to those of us watching the play that there was absolutely no foul here–and even if there was, it certainly was not deserving of a Yellow Card. Brazil went on to win the match 3-1, securing three points in its first match of the World Cup.
This may seem like an inadvertent bad call made by a nervous official, but I think the evidence paints a different picture. I hope, in truth, that it really just was a bad call. Because if it wasn’t, if the call was intentionally malicious then our beautiful game has a much bigger problem. And if this is just the start of the proceedings, then I don’t think we’ll have much “fair play” to look forward to in this year’s World Cup.