MEN IN BLACK (…with Whistle and those Colored cards)

An official football match is never complete without those men in black (Well, at least back in the days. Nowadays, they get to wear other colors) with the whistle and those colored cards running the match, the referee and his fellow officials. Love them or hate them (it is more often the latter); they are an integral part of the beautiful game and provide their fair share of cause for the passion that exists in the world of football.

From the players, coaches, pundits and the fans themselves, you get this feeling that referees all over the world are incompetent, never get things right and worse of all, and cost your team the match. It is very rare that referees get commended for a job well done. If they were, the praise most likely came from neutrals. Often you would hear how a referee ruined what would have been a good match. He missed a crucial call; he lost control of the match, etc. The litany is endless.

Then again, let’s try to put a little more objectivity in viewing or judging referees. Many of their mistakes get scrutinized very closely because nowadays technology allows us to review incidents on video frame by frame. Yet this is hindsight, in the actual match the referee has mere seconds, maybe even less, to render judgment on the field and make a call. It isn’t easy and on top of all that, you have thousands of fans and supporters second-guessing your every decision and being very vocal about their thoughts and opinions on a call.

Now let’s look at the bigger picture. Human error, this is a fact of life and we live with this every day. We try our best to minimize it but the fact remains that it is still something we just have to learn to deal with in our daily lives. Human error is a feature of our lives that just happens and once done, there isn’t much to do about it but pick up the pieces and move on. As it is in life, so it is in football. For me, that is part of the beauty and wide appeal of the game around the world as football, both its positive and negatives aspects, is simply but a reflection of life as we know it. Only in football, we experience and savor life through a prism that is entertaining, exciting and loud (…and with my husband beside me, then it would also be full of swearing too).

Photo via uflphilippines.com
Now don’t get me wrong, I also believe that a lot needs to be done to improve refereeing. While I acknowledge that refereeing errors is part and parcel of the game, I also believe that authorities should be doing all that they can to improve refereeing.

Moving to a local perspective, let me just say that from some of the UFL matches I’ve seen and from feedback I get from my husband (to be honest, not the most objective resource in this regard), it appears local refereeing here needs to significantly raise their standards. The refereeing standard leaves much to be desired, especially in the manner by which referees control the match. It’s not so much botched offside calls, non-calls for handball or even inconsistency of the calling of fouls. I acknowledge that like our football, we also need to grow and support the development of our local referees. In time and with the proper support, I am sure standards will improve and those issues minimized.

Photo via interaksyon.com
The more immediate concern I have with the local officiating is the seemingly loose control of referees over some heated matches. There were some tough UFL Division 1 matches where you get the feeling that things were just going to boil over and the “violence” on the field was threatening to get out of control. This is a matter that needs attention right away. It is a situation that isn’t going to help our players, especially our young talents. As a mother, I also don’t relish having my son watch a match degenerate into a brutal and “dirty” affair because the referees fail to control the players and the general conduct in which the match is played. I can live with having my team lose because the referee botched an offside call. However, I can’t take situations where referees fail to give yellow cards for unruly and “dirty” behavior, retaliatory fouls involving flying elbows and the like.

Having said that, I am hopeful that efforts are being made by the relevant authorities to help and support our referees. Our players, clubs and coaches are growing and developing as Philippine football is now beginning to get the attention and support it deserves, our referees should also be part of that equation.

After all, the men in black with whistles and those colored cards are as much a part of the game of football as everyone who loves the sport.  

2012 Moira G Gallaga©