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BVB Dortmund clearly wanted to secure three points in their pursuit of a Champions League spot for next year, and playing at home against 14th place VFL Wolfsburg would appear to be a slam dunk for them. That is until a referee can issue a send-off for an imaginary hand-ball in the box. It was about the 35th minute when Dortmund’s keeper Weidenfeller was caught off his line – the ball comes to the top of the penalty area to a Wolfsburg attacker who shoots the ball on goal, as Dortmund’s left-back Schmelzerwas retreating to cover for the stranded Weidenfeller.Schmelzer Saves the ball on the line – BVB Dortmund vs VFL Wolfsburg Dec 8, 2012
The shot (not a powerful one, by any means), glanced off Schmelzer’s left thigh towards his right leg near his groin area while his left hand appeared to be trying to protect his private parts. Upon very close inspection, the ball never touched his hand. It was a matter of a centimeter or two.BVB’s Schmelzer unjustly callled for handball in the box vs Wolfsburg
But in fast play, the referee thought that the ball touched Schemelzer’s hand. So the PK was given to Wolfsburg, and what was even more painful for Dortmund, Schmelzer was issued a red card and so BVB had to play with 10 men for the remainder of the match.Marcel Schmelzer issued red card by referee Wolfgang Stark, Borussia Dortmund_vs Wolfsburg 120812
The replays, commentators and even the referee himself acknowledged after the match that it wasn’t a handball and that Dortmund was unfairly punished. In an interview with reporters after the match, referee Stark said, “I looked at it again later and unfortunately it was an error of perception on my part. I’m sorry, that should not happen. The penalty and the red card were a mistake on my part. That’s annoying.”
This explains why later on in the 2nd half, Stark tried to compensate for his mistake by calling a PK for Dortmund, evidently for a push by a Wolfsburg defender against Lewandowski in the penalty area. But again, the video replays clearly showed that the Wolfsburg defender Kjaer never really pushed the Dortmund attacker. Commentators remarked that referee Stark was merely trying to compensate Dortmund for the earlier bad call. This prompts the question, “Do two wrongs make a right?”
I don’t think that annoying is the right word. I think the correct word is that the call was an injustice. It was such an injustice that the DFB (German Football League) rescinded match suspensions that is typically given to red-carded players for subsequent matches, another admission that referee Wolfganf Stark got it wrong.
And how did Stark and the DFB realize that they got it wrong? Answer: VIDEO REPLAYS.
Another relevant question to ask is why referee Stark didn’t give Schmelzer the benefit of the doubt, when the ball was heading towards his groin area. Nine times out of ten, referees allow players to protect their private parts (whether male or female). There was clearly no advantage here for Schmelzer to place a hand near the groin area for protection. As Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp asked after the game during post-game interviews, “What do my boys have to do, cut off their hands?”
Before we jump on referee Stark, please remember that we’re dealing with one of the most experienced officials in the world. Stark has centered World Cup and Champions League matches. And the Bundesliga is one of the highest ranked leagues in the world. Furthermore, Stark was in an excellent position to make the call. He was standing within 7 meters of Schmelzer, facing right at him as the shot was taken.
So how can one of the top referees in the world standing in the right position get it so wrong?
The answer is that even the best referees cannot see everything right the first time around – these plays happen so fast that it becomes impossible to make the right call. To use Stark’s own words, “it was an error of perception.”
At least Stark and the DFB have the guts to admit their mistakes. This is important because it tells players, coaches, managers and fans that officials are human. Officials make mistakes. In this case, it was a series or comedy of errors – a referee’s greatest nightmare. If you’ve never officiated a match you have no idea what I mean.
The other major take-away from this match is that the DFB and Stark perhaps may be conceding that to get it right we need VIDEO REPLAYS. It’s about time to get serious about officiating, as I strongly suggest in previous posts and videos on my web site, ProSoccerTactics.com by incorporating VIDEO REPLAYS.
Until we do, every major tournament will continue to present us with tragic decisions such as this one, and injustices will continue to be made.
Other professional sports like hockey (the NHL), American football (the NFL), cricket and tennis incorporate VIDEO REPLAYS to make the games much fairer for everyone. It is so sad that sport with the highest spectator viewership in the world continues to insist on inflicting painful decisions on players, teams, and fans.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about had it with FIFA and the professional leagues for continuing to look the other way. It’s almost becoming a joke. All the top players, coaches and managers know it. You think that these guys would band together finally and speak up. Don’t they have the guts to stand up and do something about it? Or must we continue to endure these mini-tragedies, in the wake of technological advances that could easily be implemented to make things fairer for everybody? The technology has already been incorporated by the other professional sports noted above – isn’t time that soccer or world football does the same?
Someday, spectators will make comments about this neanderthal era of world football officiating. You can just picture a little boy or girl asking Dad about a great player who scored a goal from the final of a World Cup game of the distant past – “Daddy, was that world cup match pre-video replay or after video replays were adopted?“ And the father’s reply may be something like this: “Unfortunately, they didn’t use video replays back then, so teams and fans had to live with bad calls in those days, not like today.”
So what to do about it? Well, if we put our heads together we can come up with some practical and viable solutions. Stay tuned here at ProSoccerTactics.com for an upcoming blog post dedicated to how to practically integrate video replays for officiating games more effectively and objectively. Your comments, ideas and suggestions are also welcome and will be shared with the ProSoccerTactics community.
Thanks for your interest,