Refs, please don't spoil the fun

HARARE - With the World Cup well and truly under way, the big talking point so far has been without doubt world champions’ Spain’s shock elimination at the first hurdle.

One other talking point I hoped would not emerge in this World Cup – refereeing – has sadly already reared its ugly head, forcing its way into football debates around the world barely halfway into the tournament.

In recent years, referees have been in the limelight far too often, mostly for the wrong reasons. Some of blunders by the men in the middle have swung tournament outcomes and league titles – and referees have been figures of hate for many across the footballing world.

A strong belief among a lot of folk is that referees are part of a powerful and corrupt syndicate controlled by influential men in powerful positions of world football.

The validity of this argument is a matter of opinion.

My take is that under Sepp Blatter’s reign, Fifa has failed to properly tackle this scourge of dubious refereeing. Maybe there is no will. 

The penalty awarded to Brazil against Croatia by Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura comes to mind: a colleague fiercely argued that there could be a ploy to help the Samba Boys go all the way at any cost in order to avert trouble in a host country facing anti-World Cup protests.

Strong opinion, that, but the World Cup, thankfully, has got off to a blistering start and aren’t we lucky that the ride is just starting! 

It’s a World Cup promising thrills and spills, more twists and turns – what with a team like Chile being spoken of as serious contenders for the coveted trophy.

This could be one of the best World Cups ever, but only if referees let the game flow and desist from making game-changing decisions.