Posted by: shineonali | September 8, 2010

Don’t Let Me Become FIFA

I just came across a notebook entry I wrote during the Writing Workshop Institute I attended in New York last month.  The World Cup was in full swing, and there seemed to be an abundance of complaints about the mistakes being made by referees.  Particularly around the goal mouth, there were goals allowed that shouldn’t have been, and goals disallowed unfairly.  Calls of offside were made unjustly, and calls were not made that should have been.

I used to be an “abonada” (season’s ticket-holder) of Atletico de Madrid.  When you are at a live game, you have to trust that the officials are making the right calls.  (Well, to be honest, the attitude is probably more like every call made in my team’s favour is right, and every call against my team is wrong.  And then you cheer or jeer accordingly. ) You can see what the refs see, and they are closer to the action than you.  There is no instant replay.

When you are watching games on television, though, everything changes.  You can see, over and over from every angle and in slow-motion, exactly what really happened.  I feel almost embarrassed for the officials–clearly they only had one chance to see the event, and from one, possibly disadvantageous angle, and they had to make a decision based on that, while everyone else in the world knows they messed up.

When I ask my father why FIFA won’t let the referees use goal-line and/or replay technology to make sure these decisions are made fairly and correctly, he goes off on a tirade against FIFA.  They are too powerful, they answer to no one… I’m not sure that answers my question, but this is a subject that makes many football fans crazy.

I think that the organization is simply unwilling to change.  There seems to be a fear of the consequences of opening the door to technology. For example, if instant replay is used, will it get in the way of the flow of the game?  (It has always been a point of pride for soccer aficionados that this is a sport that “plays on”–none of the wimpy waiting around that lesser sports have.) What if they let technology be used to check certain types of controversial, unclear plays, and then people start clamoring for checks in more and more situations?  FIFA seems to feel it is required to protect the integrity and the tradition of the sport–one reason I heard put forward for not wanting to use technology made this quite clear.  They say that they want the sport to remain as faithful as possible to the game that is played by amateur leagues around the world, which presumably do not have access to instant replays or special goal-line technology.

It’s smart to be fearful to a degree–you do want to think about the long-range consequences of decisions.  But FIFA is letting its fear of the “slippery slope” of technology get in the way of trying out a far more effective tool.  At the end of the World Cup, I heard a FIFA official (finally) acknowledge that changes need to be made.  However, he made it sound like the most likely change would be continuing to tweak the existing system–adding extra officials near the goal–rather than using a new tool.   I think FIFA forgets that they are good at making rules (the rulebook for football is a special thing).  They could come up with a set of standards for using replay technology, or using microchips so that goals can be verified.  Sure, it would be different officiating than in an amateur game, but let’s be honest–with the strength, speed, and talent of today’s top players, as well as the quality of the pitches in the stadiums themselves, there is a world of difference between a professional and an amateur game as it is.

There are still teachers and administrators like FIFA, aren’t there?  People who can see that a technological tool would let kids do something faster, better, more effectively…but don’t want to use the tool because it doesn’t fit their model of how things work.  The kids (the players and fans in my football analogy) know about the tools, they use the tools in their daily lives, but in the classroom (the football pitch), they aren’t allowed to use them.

Fortunately, I don’t work with many (if any) FIFA teachers.  I worry that I could become one…I like to think that I am careful, not fearful, of implementing technology.  I definitely don’t want to work for FIFA.  (Imagine the referees as the teachers in my analogy, and FIFA is the administration or district…)

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Responses

  1. I think I’ve read this post three times now and I still love the analogy. I think we all continue to evolve and the moment we stop is when we will become extinct…as teachers and as a race. We have to continue to find new ways, do things better even if things are good enough.


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