Tuesday, September 06, 2005

An official errs...so the game is invalidated and replayed.

The Sports Economist has called my attention to the fact that FIFA has overruled a critical World Cup qualifying result due to an official's error and declared the game must be replayed. (Story.) Referee Toshimitsu Yoshida waved off a successful penalty kick by Uzbekistan because an Uzbek player had entered the penalty area when the kick was taken. He gave Bahrain an indirect free kick for the infraction when the rules call for the penalty to be retaken. Uzbekistan followed the rules by protesting at that moment, and later on in writing. Their protest was upheld--sort of. Where Uzbekistan asked for a 3-0 forfeit win, they instead got their 1-0 win invalidated and to be replayed.

In theory, this is an official's nightmare. The idea that a call can be reversed is troublesome--a game should be decided on the field of play and not outside of it.

However, upon reading the story, I'm calmed a little bit. Yoshida's error wasn't an error in judgment. It was a mistake in application of a rule. If the result had been reversed because Yoshida or his linesmen had missed an offsides call or missed a call on whether a ball had crossed the line, that would be seriously problematic to me. An official can't do his or her job well if he/she can have decisions overruled. He/she won't be taken seriously. But an error in rule application is a different story--far different from a missed call. That's what Yoshida did, so I'm cool with the decision. (Sorry, Mr. Yoshida. I've made a similar error once--let my partner put the ball in at the wrong spot and to the wrong team after a T years ago--and although the game wasn't affected or protested, I was caught and rightfully upbraided for the misadministration.)

But it might be a Pyrrhic victory for Uzbekistan. Rather than getting the 3-0 forfeit they asked for (adding two goals and making it almost impossible for Bahrain to catch up in the second leg back in Manama), they lose their one-nil win in Tashkent, and have to go back and play it again. Perhaps they regret their decision now.

Also, the decision is a very big deal for international soccer. The winner of the Uzbekistan/Bahrain home-and-home will face the fourth-place team from CONCACAF--either Guatemala or Trinidad and Tobago--for the last spot in the field of 32. The winner is one step away from Germany '06, so Uzbekistan's protest has unwittingly put them a goal further away from the prize.

The net result of all of this is that I'm rooting for Bahrain now, especially in the Tashkent redo on October 8. If they win--or even draw--teams might think twice before protesting in the future.


At 1:38 PM, Blogger Hugh said...

As Dave Barry might say: "Tashkent Redo" is a great name for a band.


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