Monday, 28 June 2010

Football & Formula One

So for most people in England at least, last weekend was probably dominated by England's 4-1 defeat at the hands of Germany. The game being most noticeable for what's one of the most controversial refereeing decisions to have been seen at a game of that calibre. I say most controversial, but it's actually probably the least controversial given that the decision was obviously just flat-out wrong. There's no real debate over it whatsoever. It clearly crossed the line and then some. It was a goal. End of argument.

What pisses me off to a large extent is people saying that it doesn't really matter in the end because the final score would have been 4-2 and Germany would still have won by a good margin. Which is a ridiculously naïve and retarded way of thinking about it, because that's just not how sports work. If that goal had counted, the scoreline would have been 2-2 at half time. It would have meant England had not only tied the game, but had momentum moving in their favour going into the second half.

Completely ignoring any psychological effects of having a clear goal for your side disallowed, being at 2-2 is a completely different position from being 2-1 down. Both of Germany's last two goals were extremely good counter-attacks, and the few England players back defending just completely failed to cope with the situation and track back properly. The main difference is that if the score was 2-2, Germany might have never had the opportunity to counter-attack, because England wouldn't have been chasing a goal so hard, and wouldn't have committed as many men forward. It's all ifs and buts at the end of the day, but to say that the scoreline would probably have been 4-2 is just retarded, because Germany probably wouldn't have gotten their third and fourth goals, or at least wouldn't have gotten them in the manner at which they did.

I'd also like to make a point of how fucking retarded their third goal was from an England perspective. It was a freekick that Lampard smashed into the wall, so why the fuck were Terry and Upson even up out of position? If he was never planning on whipping the ball into the box for someone to head at goal, why the hell were our defenders pushed so far up the field? I understand bringing centre-backs up for corners, but for shooting free-kicks? We were chasing the game, granted, but they should have been back ready to defend when the free-kick was never going to actually involve them. You don't need your centre-backs up to maybe poke in a dropped save from the goalkeeper or a deflection. It was unnecessary, and if they were where they should have been, we might not have conceded that third goal and things could have gone differently.

But back to the disallowed goal, which yet again demonstrated the need for video replays for this sort of thing in football. Demonstrated, and will probably make no difference whatsoever, because Sepp Blatter doesn't think it should be introduced, and apparently what the entire rest of the world thinks doesn't matter. I don't get his argument that a human still has to make the decision. So what? If a human has to make a decision, why can't they be making as informed a decision as possible? Why are we relying on referee's ability to see incidents that might be off the ball where they're not looking, or several yards away from them, when we already have the technology in place for video replays. It's not like there aren't already dozens of cameras around the ground. If we people at home, thousands of miles away, can see the replay, why can't a referee or fourth official inside the stadium?

I understand not all decisions are clear-cut, and sometimes even after seeing the replay it can be controversial, but ultimately that shouldn't matter. If it's a decision that could go either way in a slow motion replay, surely it's equally difficult to call at the time, at normal speed. Those sorts of tough calls will remain tough calls, but at least they'll be made properly by the referee, and all the calls that referees get wrong when they are clearly incorrect will instead be gotten right.

These sorts of things balance out over the course of a league season, but for competitions like the World Cup they completely don't. Random luck from whether officials make the right call or not tends not to balance itself out over only three or four games, and it's unfair that teams are potentially knocked out of competitions because referees have gotten it wrong. I'll agree that England deserved to lose yesterday, as Germany were the better team. They could easily have scored three or four goals in the first half, but the point is that they didn't. If a team's players make mistakes and don't convert chances, then it's acceptable for the team to get knocked out, because that's how the sport works. But the officials should be neutral. They should have no impact on the game whatsoever, and are only there to enforce the rules of the game and get decisions right. They shouldn't be doing anything which could impact the true result, and yesterday they definitely did.

Look at tennis, rugby, cricket, American football, motorsport, pretty much every other major sport in the world has the option for technology and video refereeing to be used, because they've recognised that the technology is available, and it makes things fair. It's just using technology to assist officials in making the right decision when it's quite tough to call by eye. Should we get rid of all the timing systems in Formula One, and for qualifying just have a couple of guys sitting on the start line counting seconds for each car's qualifying time to decide who gets to be in pole position? No, because that's clearly retarded, but the principle is the same. Technology is cheap, it offers clear benefits and really there shouldn't even be a debate over whether it's used or not.

Speaking of Formula One, while football was embarrassing itself as a sport yesterday, a few hours previously Mark Webber was demonstrating just how impressive F1 is by emerging from a massive accident completely unscathed. It's a huge testament to the level of safety and technology in the sport that someone can crash like that, at that speed, and then a few seconds later just hop out the car with no significant injury whatsoever.

The resulting safety car period from the crash also made the rest of the race pretty exciting as well, because it mixed the field up a fair bit. It also caused a fair bit of anger from Ferrari as Lewis Hamilton got a drive-through penalty for overtaking the safety car. I can understand them being annoyed that it took so long for the stewards to issue the penalty, and also see Ferrari's argument that a drive-through penalty was not severe enough. Given that the penalty still didn't take Hamilton out of 2nd place, while Alonso ended up back in 9th for staying behind the safety car, I can see where they're coming from, but I still think the stewards made the correct decision. The fact is that Hamilton didn't cleanly just overtake the safety car, he was pretty much level with it when it came out the pit lane, and it was a pretty tight call to make from his perspective. The only reason he actually technically did overtake the safety car after the white line was because he hesitated and slowed down as he saw it emerge from the pit lane. If he'd just kept his foot down he'd have been clean in front of it by the time they crossed the white line.

If a car only gets a drive-through penalty when they blatantly just disregard the safety car and overtake it, then I think that's wrong, and they should be given a far harsher penalty or disqualification, but when the call is as tight as it was for Hamilton, with the safety car essentially coming out alongside him (and there being two cars, so it wasn't clear which one was actually the safety car), then a drive-through is acceptable. Yeah, he technically broke the rules, but it's fairly easy to see how he could have made the mistake. It hurt Alonso massively and didn't hurt Hamilton, but the safety car is always going to do that just because it all depends where you are on the lap when the accident happens, and when the safety car comes out. If the safety car had been maybe twenty meters further back, it would have been clearly behind Hamilton and still in front of Alonso and the outcome would have been the same.

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