[MY VIEW] The USA scores what looks like its third goal for an incredible comeback victory over Slovenia. Referee Koman Coulibaly rules no goal. Why? The players don't know nor do the coaches. Nor do 45,573 fans in the stadium, nor hundreds of millions watching on TV. It's the ref's little secret and just one more example of a major problem with soccer refereeing.
U.S. forward Landon Donovan said the U.S. players asked the Malian referee in a non-confrontational way about the call, “And he ignored us.”
But not only do the players deserve to know what the call is, so do the fans. Why should the whole world be left in the dark?
Up until 1997, the FIFA rulebook included, "... it is not the duty of the referee to explain or mime any offense that has caused him to give a particular decision ..." That phrase has been taken out, but no action has been taken to require or enable referees to share the reasons for their calls.
What should have happened by now is the creation of a universal set of signals that referees must use whenever they blow the whistle. Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner, who has advocated for such a policy for decades, recommends that MLS take the lead on this, because the USA is a country where sports fans are used to and expect clear referee signals. Americans, from their other sports, have experience in this and would likely do a good job with it.
The replays of Maurice Edu’s goal didn’t help reveal why Coulibaly nullified it. Edu was not offside. Pairs of Slovenian and U.S. players were caught in wrestling matches that actually indicated cause for a U.S. penalty kick call, if anything. But referees tend to rule in the favor of defenders in such goalmouth tussles.
This goal-area tussling is endemic in soccer, and serves as another reminder of soccer’s ridiculously inadequate ratio of officials to players. One hopes that UEFA’s current experimentation with two extra officials to monitor the goal areas leads to implementation and ultimately deters players from scrapping for position with their hands and arms.
Regardless, there’s no excuse for not requiring referees to explain their calls. First, they should signal the offense -- and the offender -- after they blow the whistle. This may also keep players from surrounding the referee after a call, as they so often do.
After the game, refs should make a statement to explain their crucial calls. In many cases, referees are likely to prevent unnecessary controversy from brewing if they enlightened us about the decisions.
Maybe if they didn’t discipline without explanation like junta police, refs would get more respect.