The Playing Field

Beware, 'Big Brother is watching you'

If I could ever go back in time and change something, wish I could disallow the infamous 'Hand of God'. In the history of football, there had been many such instances where the legitimacy of a referee's judgment was called into question. Those decisive moments happen in the blink of an eye, often making it impossible for human eye to descry,  the latest being Manchester United-Chelsea match where referee Mark Clattenburg's erroneous decisions changed the outcome of the match.

The controversial match saw Clattenburg sending off Torress for simulation, after he seemed convinced that the latter's fall was exaggerated. Soon after, Chelsea, with their two men down, succumbed to a 3-2 defeat  as Javier Hernandez netted the ball in the 75th minute. Later, the replays showed Chicharito in offside position, but Clattenburg awarded Red Devils their winning goal.

The otherwise thrilling match thus had an unfortunate end owing to refereeing fallacy. Clattenburg, on the other hand, is no stranger to controversies. He is the same referee who got rebuked for letting Nani took matters to his 'hand' during the 2010 Manchester United – Tottenham Hotspur match at Old Trafford. Never have I seen a more bizarre goal like this:


Such situations call for the implementation of goal-line technology. The Hawk-Eye – a computerized ball tracking technology developed in the year 2001 - has successfully been put to use in games like tennis and cricket for almost a decade. Cricket was the first to adopt the technology in 2001, followed by tennis in 2006.  But football authorities were hesitant in embracing the same for long.

 
The good news is that, after repeated pleas and endless debates, the football governing body has finally given a nod to the induction of goal-line technology. The International Football Association Board (IFAB ), which is accountable for issuing the footballing commandments, accepted the proposal  in July this year. Following FIFA's approval of Hawk-Eye and GoalRef -  the high-tech refereeing systems will be finally seen implemented during  the FIFA Cup World Cup 2012 happening in Japan this December.

Hawk-Eye's system works by using six cameras, focusing on each goal, to track the ball on the pitch. The system's software then uses "triangulation" to pinpoint the exact location of the ball. If it crosses the goal-line, an encrypted radio signal is sent to the referee's wristwatch to indicate a goal has been scored. In line with FIFA's requirements, the whole process takes less than a second to complete.(Source: BBC Sport)

However, the league matches will have to wait further owing to possible delay associated with licensing process and installation of the devices. Still, there is a silver lining. 


Indeed great news for the fans, and destiny's less favoured ones like Peter Shilton would be more than delighted once it becomes fruitful. Shilton has not met Maradona eye-to-eye after the ‘Hand of God’ incident, and he is still waiting for an apology from the football great. Undoubtedly, it was Maradona's fault, but match referee Ali Bin Nasser and the linesmen also are to be blamed as the great Argentine's foul punch acquired 'divinity' only on account of refereeing error.

With all due respect, the brilliance of Maradona's second goal will not absolve the 'Hand of God'. Not just Peter Shilton, but millions of fans are haunted by that incident even after 26 years. Maradona has told Shilton to get over it; that’s easy for him to say. To err is human, but refereeing errors cannot be vindicated in sports. Thanks to Hawk-Eye and GoalRef, soon ‘Big Brother would be watching’ the ball's trajectory on pitch.

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  • Prem Panicker, Managing Editor, Yahoo! India

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