American soccer fans are still cursing the disallowed goal that robbed them of victory against Slovenia last week, but that controversial refereeing call is just part of a larger World Cup debate. The inconsistency of the referees' decision-making is fast becoming one of the stories of this tournament, says Joshua Robinson at The Daily Beast, and the "system for picking who blows the whistles at the World Cup is in desperate need of reform." The "fundamental problem" here is one of experience. Many of the referees in this World Cup are unused to officiating at such a high level — and and that includes Koman Coulibaly, the Malian financial auditor who blew the whistle on Team USA's third goal last Friday. Here, an excerpt:
"Soccer referees spend most of their time working domestic league games, moving up the ladder one painstaking season at a time. Once they reach their country’s top flight, they can be selected to run even bigger games at the club and international levels if they distinguish themselves. And so it goes, all the way to the World Cup. But the value of their experience is largely a reflection of the quality of their leagues. If players are better, faster, and richer—as they are in, say, the English Premier League—the referees naturally become more effective in dealing with the super-talented egomaniacs who are populating the fields of South Africa this summer....
"Yet the top brass insists on applying an ill-conceived form of affirmative action to make sure that the refereeing corps isn’t dominated by Western Europeans and South Americans. They justify it by saying that if referees hadn’t survived a rigorous selection process, they would never make it to the World Cup anyway."
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