Kicking Football into the 21st Century
Disclaimer: This post is about the game which is played by kicking a ball with your foot, not the American sport played by throwing an oval-shaped object with your arm. (In other words, it’s about soccer.)
Thinking back to the first football match I ever attended, I can’t remember the result or who scored, but I do remember the fleecy softness of my brand new scarf and the smell of the particular brand of cigarettes that the fan in front of me was smoking that day. I also remember that it was so cold that two pairs of gloves and a hot chocolate made little difference. Many football fanatics like me are forever obsessed with looking back to great football memories, but in this post I will focus on the future of my beloved sport — a future that I hope will be rescued by the wonders of technology.
As the Euro 2012 comes to an end after an epic final between reigning champions Spain and perennial finalists Italy, it’s the perfect time to say goodbye (and good riddance) to the old ways of the old world — that is, to football championships that do not use goal-line technology. In England’s match against Ukraine, a Ukrainian goal was ruled out by referees who claimed the ball did not actually cross the goal line. However, slow motion replays broadcast on TV clearly showed that the ball had crossed the goal line. England ended up “winning” the match 1-0.
This increasingly common occurrence could be solved easily enough by introducing goal-line technology, which uses a combination of high-speed video cameras and sensors to provide referees with quick, accurate information. The debate around goal-line technology or #GLT has been going on intermittently for more than half a decade now. Yet, with the global spotlight on Euro 2012, the debate has suddenly intensified.
You may be wondering why anyone would be against goal-line technology, especially in today’s digital-friendly world. To many ardent football fans, the split-second decisions made by referees and the human error involved are all just a part of good old-fashioned football, part of what makes football the most exciting game in the world. People against goal-line technology believe that it will slow down the game due to a higher number of appeals and referrals. They claim that these interruptions will result in a game that is much less intense and not as exciting to watch.
Yet, for the first time ever, the technophobic dinosaurs that run FIFA, football’s world governing body, have expressed unequivocal support in favor of goal-line technology. In reaction to the England-Ukraine incident, the Head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, tweeted “After last night’s match #GLT is no longer an alternative but a necessity.” It seems rather poignant that the backing of the biggest technological advancement in the world’s most popular game should be announced on Twitter.
Advocates of the move see little wrong in making football more accurate and fair. The increasing fitness of players, the improved quality of the fields, and the constant refining of the equipment have all turned football into a faster and more dynamic game. This makes it much more difficult, and often impossible, for referees to see exactly where the ball is at all times.
This year, the English Premier League will try out goal-line technology. If the trial is a success, it seems very possible that the game I love will be set to embrace technology. The sport that was first documented in the 16th century might finally be kicked right into the 21st.