The World Cup 2010 football game between England and Germany, where a very able English team was massacred 1:4 on a hot June day, will be long remembered for a host of reasons, not least that it could lead to radical changes both in perspectives in Britain and in FIFA playing procedures.
People involved in football (players, managers, referees, commentators and officials, in particular) love to extol the virtues of the sport as 'the beautiful game". Officials maintain that mistakes made by the referees in their adjudications are as much part and parcel of the appeal of the game as the game itself, hence why video replays have been resisted in settling questionable judgements. One is inclined to agree with that perception of overlooking referee fallibility, with so many aspects of the game to judge during any match, except in one major respect: when it comes to goals.
A goal is not just an accidental part of a game. It is the raison d'etre, the lynchpin, the whole point of football. Nothing else matters in the game. Without a goal one cannot win. Thus every single action of the players, no matter how artistic, skilful, dramatic or attractive to watch, has only ONE objective in mind: to ultimately score a goal and outdo their opponent. Fortunes rise and fall on a player's ability to bring that goal to fruition, or to prevent it from happening, regardless of his role on the field. Players themselves are paid huge sums in transfer fees based on their reputation for getting, or preventing, those goals. To have a crucial international match in the most important tournament, where the stakes are extremely high for participating countries - financially and patriotically - and then wilfully ignore a bad decision around a perfectly good goal is crass to the extreme, and makes the game rather bitter for those on the receiving end of that judgement.
The Power of Scoring a Goal
Those who say that Germany would have won anyway, which makes the disallowed goal of little consequence, know very little about emotional health. We are ruled by emotions, no matter how rational we might try to be. The higher the stakes the more emotional we become. I would go as far as saying that England might have won the game, or even taken it to penalties, if that goal was allowed, not because I am British too, but because of something else entirely: the power of any scored goal to lift players' spirits, to immediately increase morale, to motivate them even further, to reinforce faith in their abilities and to affirm what is possible.
Had England been allowed that goal at that most crucial point in the game when they had just started their fightback, a goal that would have equalised the score with Germany, we would have seen a different game from the players. The minute it was disallowed, their spirits took a nosedive and, play as they might, their subconscious resentment at their perceived injustice got in the way of their craft. They simply lost their motivation, no matter how much they tried to get back into the game - an entirely natural and unfortunate reaction when we are hit with the enormity of an action we feel impotent to affect. It is quite a different emotional feeling of NOT scoring at all than to score a goal which is not allowed. The first feeling is one of frustration at being thwarted in one's efforts to score while the second is one of injustice. Two completely different emotions.
The concept of justice in any form is very important to the human psyche. It is as old as time itself, and sought after in every aspect of our lives. One does not mind being frustrated in one's efforts through not scoring. Demoralising, yes, but not earth shattering. One knows one can always do better; that the onus is on the person to improve their act. Not so with a sense of injustice. That takes the responsibility from the personal level to a social one, involving a more powerful third party. Unless justice is perceived to be received it leaves feelings of gross impotence, victimhood and personal inadequacy. When it also happens on the world stage, in front of millions of people, the effects can be devastating because they are magnified beyond measure.
It is no coincidence that Mexico also lost their game with Argentina, being beaten 3:1, when both teams were 0-0 approaching full time. Once the referee allowed a clear offside goal in favour of Argentina, it would have been downhill all the way for the Mexicans in motivation, morale and a feeling of injustice.
In fact, it would have been better had England not scored that goal at all because they would have had to concede to themselves that they were crap on the day; that the Germans were the better team. But so long as that goal was disallowed, that doubt will always remain as to what the real result would have been. The Germans were certainly on form, but anyone would look even more masterful against a demoralised side silently grieving over a perceived injustice.
It is nonsense to have video replays in commentaries which are not allowed to influence a clear error in judgement, especially when everyone can see the glaring faux pax. That disallowed goal has gone viral on the Internet, casting a very long shadow over the whole tournament, especially when refereeing, in general, had improved, and everything was going so well. The president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, who has stubbornly resisted any use of technology in matches, has apologised for referee errors (saying he 'deplored' seeing those mistakes on the replays) and promised to reopen the debate on using technology in the future, though for disputed goals only.
Well, if he wants the game of football to remain 'beautiful', and credible, technology is now an urgent imperative, because there is nothing beautiful at all about downright injustice. In fact, it leaves only nasty memories and is really rather ugly.