BUENOS AIRES — After going back to the tape, a few reactions to a day so troubled by the lack of instant replay. Undoubtedly the demand for limited video replay (on goals, major penalties, etc.) grew even more after Sunday’s abysmal day for World Cup referees – England’s second goal that wasn’t and Tevez’s glaring offside on Argentina’s first goal. In both cases, the disparity of the final score is unlikely to soften national grievances. England’s second goal would have tied a frantic game after England found itself early in a two goal deficit. Mexico, which even some Argentines believed outplayed their South American opponent, lost much of its composure after the first goal and surrendered a second goal later on a egregious mental error that at the least seems less probable absent the first score.
FIFA is a slow-moving body and the purists that largely control it have long been resistant to replay technology. Yet after a series of such high-profile mistakes and the likelihood that one or two more are still in store, I would place money that by 2014 in Brazil we’ll have some video replay. At the very least, it seems clear which way English and Mexican support will fall. Who knows, by the end of the tournament a coalition of the sorrowful losers might have many members in its ranks.
The Mexican gaffe was instructive for other reasons, as the stadium monitor replay highlight of the goal ignited Mexican frustration on the pitch and in the stands (Argentine announcers claimed that before Mexican players saw the replay they were not loudly protesting the goal but I don’t have clear evidence of this.) It’s standard FIFA procedure not to reshow footage of controversial plays revealing referee error for precisely this reason, so the Mexicans and the crowd were treated to the sad farce of having to accept a goal that the large video screens in the stadium clearly showed should not have stood (FIFA has since announced that it is reviewing its in-stadium video procedure to avoid precisely this incident). There are extended arguments for and against replay…I feel it does not much detract from the pace of the game, or at least not more than the theatrical whimpering of some fallen players who perform like stricken farm animals. Furthermore, postgame video replay would mete out punishment for truly egregious flopping and might even speed up play and improve its quality.
I watched the Argentina-Mexico game in the Plaza San Martin along with a couple thousand of my rowdiest Buenos Aires friends. Though I can’t claim that many Argentines were too troubled by Mexico’s poor fortune, the announcers on the Argentine feed did ruminate a little on the incident, and somewhat pedantically told us, in the context of Argentina’s tendency to view FIFA as prejudiced towards Brazil, that the referee’s error in the match goes to show that mistakes are not always the product of conspiracy but sometimes just of chance or competence. Should Argentina face Brazil, though, it remains to be seen how long the lesson lasts. As it was, the words did not seem to make much impression on the crowd.
Before I ratchet up Argentine-Brazilian tensions to too high a pitch, I do want to corroborate Jonathan’s account of support for Brazil in the (unlikely) case Argentina does not win the Cup. A few days ago after Brazil won I forget what game, the sports channel had some poor female reporter interviewing drunken and delirious Brazilians who, when presented with the reverse scenario, extended support for Argentina out of South American solidarity. Then again, the whole interview was a chaotic mess of fans hungering for a few seconds on screen and fellowship is easy to give and imagine after victory and a few drinks. What is grace if one does not really believe one will have to give it?
At the office on Monday, the mood was buoyant, though Germany’s dynamic play against England won respect and occassioned a few worries for Saturday’s showdown. The victory caused a little extra work as a co-worker’s plans for a conference next week had to be rearranged as it would fall on the date of Argentina’s potential semifinal appearance. I like to imagine that it is poor form to even advertise an event to take place during Argentina’s potential future games and shoulder the risk of having to reschedule it, as if the fortunes of the national team depend on our vigilant commitment to keep those times free, to project to each other, our players, and the world our confidence that we will have more important worries than work on those days.