Is complaining to referees in soccer truly a part of the game? Or is it simply pulling the game apart?
Although lacking a soccer background, sports have been a huge part of my life: I play lacrosse and also participated in football and basketball. The soccer culture is unfamiliar to me, and although I have watched a few World Cups now, did not understand the lifestyle and die-hard passion soccer fans overseas have for their teams until I spent time in Florence this summer during the World Cup. Watching the streets erupt after Italy’s big first win, and then deflate over the next week or so as they finished a disappointing overall performance without advancing to the next stage. Although I consider myself a big Baltimore Ravens fan, by no means will the Ravens playoff loss affect my attitude more than a few hours after the game.
After reading the article “Outrage over Premier League Officials is Damaging the Game” by Rory Smith, it gave me insight into how big of a deal refereeing and complaining about referees has been in the soccer experience. My point here is not to argue the quality of officials and whether or not their performance has declined, however to argue that the focus on officiating takes away from the game. The constant arguing and bickering, while present in many sports, slows the game and takes away from the focus on the quality of play. Refereeing is subjective and during the course of a high paced game, it can be tough to get every call right and there are examples throughout the world of sports over the years of poor calls that have decided outcomes and shifted momentum in the course of a game. The addition of replay has helped to reduce these judgment errors in many sports.
The problem with the constant complaining about referees is also that it creates excuses and allows coaches and players to blame others for the outcome. Post game, instead of reflecting on a loss and how one could have performed better, or feeling satisfied after a win, the discussion too often comes back to the officials. Where is the accountability? Why might one think that complaining will get him or her anywhere? Clearly, sometimes this bickering might be rewarded. In March of 2014, Roma and Sassuolo were competing in a Serie A match where a referee overturned a decision after the constant complaining.
How can credibility be preserved if a referee allows this to happen? A decision, once made final, is final, unless using an instant replay to determine the opposite call should have been made.
It is an interesting discussion, but I have always been raised in a sporting environment revolving around respecting officials and taking accountability for the outcome, positive or negative. Not every call will be perfect and it is something every athlete has to deal with. No team or player is entitled to more calls or more discretion, and allowing for this takes away the focus of the true essence of soccer, and any sport. The constant begging for calls, flopping to sway the officials, and blame of outcomes on officials are things I personally believe have no room in any sport.