World Cup 2010: Momentum in gaining for instant replay review

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA -- Apart from the stunning quarterfinal defeat of Roger Federer, it was a day like any other at Wimbledon, with John McEnroe ranting about bad calls.

Only McEnroe's ire wasn't directed at the lawns of the All England club; it was toward the pitches of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where missed and muffed calls have reignited the long-simmering debate about whether soccer should use technology to improve officiating.

"I witnessed a couple times where the U.S. got burned," said McEnroe, 51, whose brilliant tennis career was largely defined by his intolerance for human error.

"And in England, they're furious!" he added, alluding to Frank Lampard's goal that would have tied the score against Germany but was denied because the referee didn't see the ball cross the goal line. "It goes without saying, obviously, that they need to bring that technology into play. They should have the guts to do it right now."

McEnroe, who is following the World Cup from Wimbledon, where he's serving as a commentator for NBC Sports, has no expertise in soccer and presumably even less standing with FIFA President Sepp Blatter. But as a former world-class athlete intimately familiar with bad calls, he was eager to add his voice to those arguing that the World Cup is far too important to continue turning a blind eye to technology -- particularly goal line technology that can easily right referees' wrongs.

There are signs Blatter is listening.

With discontent building among players, fans and even referees, Blatter conceded earlier this week that "it would be nonsense" for FIFA not to reconsider its refusal to employ technology as a tool of officiating. That discussion could come as early as next month, when FIFA officials meet in Wales.

That's a dramatic turnabout for a man who just months ago rejected technology as disrupting and dehumanizing to a beautiful, if imperfect, game.

Blatter also revealed that he had apologized to England for the error that led to the disallowed goal. He extended a similar apology to Mexico for a goal that was improperly awarded to Argentina when the referee failed to note that Carlos Tevez was offside. Neither referee will receive another assignment during this World Cup, FIFA confirmed.

"I deplore the obvious refereeing mistakes we have seen," Blatter told reporters Tuesday. "Still, it's not the end of the competition, it's not the end of football. With the denial of the use of technology, we have to accept mistakes."

Tennis, however, made a different choice in recent years, introducing instant replay at three of its four majors (Wimbledon and the Australian and U.S. Opens). By all accounts, the sport is better off for it.

There were skeptics, to be sure, in a sport every bit as tradition-laden as soccer -- if not more so.

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