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Thank you, Koman Coulibaly
by Paul Kennedy, June 19th, 2010 12:55AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  fifa, men's national team, referees, world cup

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[MY VIEW] There is a positive to Koman Coulibaly's blown call that cost the USA a win over Slovenia. He accomplished what no one else could in more than 100 years. He made Americans care passionately about soccer.

Talk shows throughout the day and evening led with the Coulibaly's call that negated Maurice Edu's call --  ahead of second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, reaction to Game 7 of the NBA finals, and baseball.

It didn't matter that just about everyone knew nothing about soccer or the World Cup or Coulibaly -- where's Mali? -- they all had an opinion on the game and soccer and FIFA.

Much of the anger was directed at FIFA, which now has a big problem on its hands because it is perceived as a joke in the one country where it needs for soccer to take hold.

It would have been one thing if Coulibaly's call had cost the USA a 1-0 win, but the call cost the USA a historic comeback victory over Slovenia.

Only a couple of days earlier, these same talk show hosts and fans -- the neophytes -- were ready to give up on the World Cup, which could never possibly live up the hype of the ESPN promotional machine tournament.

The World Cup was oversold and underdelivered with a string of low-scoring and frankly boring games

The second-half comeback from 2-0 down drew all these neophyte fans into the U.S. team, the World Cup and soccer.

They were hooked, and they felt robbed.



0 comments
  1. Matthew Cox
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 1:58 a.m.
    I completely agree - after watching the comedy of errors put on by Coulibaly this morning, I was still wearing my USA shirt while running some errands across town, and everywhere I went, people started talking about the game - and the ref - with me. Sometimes it was a neophyte fan like the cashier at the burrito joint we went for dinner, who said she was still sick to her stomach over the call, and sometimes it was a knowledgeable fan like the guy in the USA kit in the bookstore, but everywhere you look today, the US World Cup team is the center of attention, and nothing gets American sports fans talking more than a horrible officiating call. Had the US given up, down 2:0 and taken the loss, then all the progress made in recent years would have been lost. Had the US won or had a "normal" draw, we'd still be knocking them for getting down early again. But losing a game that they rightfully won - that gets our attention!

  1. david caetano
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 6:54 a.m.
    yes true, more numbers will now feel interested in the World cup. They are talking about it. To follow with your thought, I believe the TV ratings will increase.

  1. Jonathan Simon
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.
    OK--granted that there should have been no whistle and a good goal by Edu and that no one will ever generally confuse Coulibaly with Esse Baharmast, the excellent US referee who twisted in the wind for 48 hrs before being vindicated by an amateur video that showed his "phantom" PK call to be correct--still it is clear that Coulibaly was not simply hallucinating, as most commentators have been shrieking. What he saw were four bear hugs, three US attackers being held or pulled down by Slovenian defenders and one Solvenian defender being pulled down by a US attacker. While logic and common sense would say that adds up to either a PK or--better refereeing--a good goal, we know that referees looking at crowds in the Penalty Area waiting for corners or set pieces focus strongly on infractions by the attackers, which can create very cheap goals. 99% of the time they ignore the same level of foul by the defenders--because the result would be a PK (85% of the time = goal), which would be way too harsh. The fault in this frequently repeated scenario is actually the PK itself and the lack of punitive options and half-measures under the fossilized Laws of the Game. The referee is often placed in a no-win position from which he or she is trained to wriggle out by calling a foul on the attacking team in virtually all such situations. It does not generally matter that, in addition to that foul, a foul or even three fouls were being committed by the defenders--the focus is on the attacker trying to create at opportunity for himself or a teammate by holding or dragging down a defender. The commentators know this or should know this. In most cases no goal is scored anyway and so there's not much dissent or controversy. Also in this case, careful review of the replay shows that the defender's being pulled down did not especially enable the scoring of the goal. But in real time, from Coulibaly's standpoint, among all the mayhem, there was a US foul. It was where his eyes were focused and he called it. Not inspired refereeing, but not either the travesty the commentators are making of it. What IS a travesty is FIFA's arrogant silence. The Laws of the Game, AS ACTUALLY ENFORCED IN PRACTICE, are not always easy to explain or defend; and FIFA would have a hard time explaining NOT what Coulibaly saw (you could put a bright red circle around the infraction on video), but why that ROUTINELY gets called while the three defensive bearhugs get ignored. That, in turn, would require a full-blown discussion of the PK concept, the lack of lesser punishment options, the rigid simplicity of the Laws of the Game, which can be beautiful or arbitrary, depending on your point of view, but which can, and often do, put referees in unenviable positions. Coulibaly responded to one such predicament on the world's greatest stage in an uninspired fashion, but a lifetime of ridicule is undeserved and far too harsh a penalty.

  1. Mike Gaynes
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.
    Mr. Simon's extraordinary analysis has turned up something the rest of the world has failed to detect in thousands of replays... a foul by a US attacker on a Slovenian defender. How fascinating that in his entire lengthy treatise Mr. Simon, like the referee, cannot identify the phantom foul, the offender or the victim. As for "a lifetime of ridicule" being "far too harsh a penalty"... that too is balderdash. When you choose to be a referee, you accept that one mistake can undo your entire body of work for the game. And when you choose to perform on the world stage, you sign up for the possibility of a lifetime of ridicule for a single mistake that can overshadow your entire career, as it has for great players like Baggio and Zidane, as well as famous referees like Graham Poll and now Martin "handball" Hansson. Coulibaly is getting exactly what he has coming, because that's the position he put himself in when he signed his World Cup contract -- and then choked in the spotlight. Mr. Simon's massive apologia is, in the opinion of this longtime referee, 100% baloney.

  1. Michael Hearon
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 12:13 p.m.
    Once again, a good game being played by 22 men ruined by 1 man! They (FIFA) claim they review the refs after each game, but if no punishment is handed down on Coulibaly, then as usual FIFA will show they are above everyone else and will do as they damn well please.

  1. Alex G. Sicre
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.
    Hmmmm, I agree with you Mike Gaynes, you too, Michael. Simon must be a "Brit"

  1. Caroline Lambert
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 12:30 p.m.
    I like Jonathan Simon's analysis because it is the best explanation I've seen so far for something that has baffled so many people. But taking the blame away from Coulibaly is going too far. What I would have liked to have seen is some preventive refereeing - if, as the referee, you don't like what you're seeing in the penalty area, hold up the free kick, get into the melee, and tell the offenders to cut it out. Then, if you do end up blowing the whistle for a foul, you have a better case for doing so. However, if you do end up blowing the whistle and it results in taking away a goal, then immediately run over to the AR to discuss, or pretend to discuss, the call. That at least gives you time to think about the situation rather than rely on a split second decision, whether or not you take the advice of the AR. But, it takes a big man, whose ego does not get in the way, to take an action like that. Coulibaly does not appear to be such a man.

  1. W P
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 12:41 p.m.
    Mike Gaynes's comment about the referees signing contracts gives the impression that it's a paid position. It's not. All of the referees are volunteers. Jonathan Simon is right. FIFA needs to revise some of the rules that have proven, over time, not to work as well as they should. They also need to re-think their stance on video replays for the referees. These work very well in a number of other sports and there's no reason why they shouldn't work in soccer.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 12:55 p.m.
    Caroline - You may a good point on consulting with the AR, except it makes the referee look weak to do so esp when the call is his to make in the middle of the field; and in this case, Coulibaly blew his whistle for an infraction before the ball arrived in the box, the goal could not have counted anyways. He was looking for any infraction from the attacking players and saw or created one in his mind. He was influenced by the previous complaints from the defense and it caused him to blow the call. He was over his head from the start as evidenced by his calls starting with not admonishing or cautioning Dempsey in the first minute.

  1. Power Dive
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.
    Watching ESPN today, Bob Bradley presented a very interesting theory and right now it's the only one that makes sense to me. He made a general statement about how refs sometimes make make-up calls. If you re-watch the play that created the direct kick for the U.S., Jozy went down very easily, if not dove to draw the foul. My theory....the ref called the foul, the linesman got on his headset and said that Jozy dove and it was a bad call...then, once Landon kicks the ball the ref "corrects" his mistake. While this is still complete BS, it's the only theory that makes sense to me.

  1. Mike Gaynes
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 1:36 p.m.
    WP, you are wrong. World Cup referees are not volunteers. They are paid. I have not been able to find a published figure for 2010, but all referees were paid $40,000 for the tournament in 2006 and $20,000 in 2002. Furthermore, they are all paid professionals in their home countries, so they are all fully aware of the conditions and consequences of their performances on the field.

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.
    Interestingly, this controversy will cause Millions more Americans to be suddenly plugged in to the Wednesday morning game against Algeria. The NFL is quiet, the NBA and NHL just ended, and the US Open will be in the books. Leaving the only sporting "competition" for our national attention (yawwwn), baseball. I pray to any deity who'll listen that our team finally puts together a performance to be proud of to further capture the hearts and minds of this Country. Not just for popularity sake but so that a new generation of kids decide to throw their considerable athletic prowess into the sport. I would love to see athletes like Kobe or LeBron of the future turn into our first Pele, Beckenbauer, Ronaldo, Messi, Drogba, etc... USMNT, this is your chance, your stage to shape soccer for the next generation. Please put up a performance that we can be proud of (a la 1980 Olympic Hockey team that pulled us out of a national funk at the time).

  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.
    Power Dive, I was thinking the same, exact thing. He decided before the kick that the US was not going to win the game on that play. Why would he do that?? He felt the foul against Jozy was weak and he needed to make amends. I've been saying that all day, thanks for confirming my belief.

  1. gus megaloudis
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.
    Botched calls are part of futbol and that is part of the beauty of this game. We should want to be headline news because our national team is that good not because our news media need to try to generate interest in order to gain in the ratings. We allowed a country with a total population of 2 million people, outplay us in the first half.Yes we showed our fight and again fought back to tie, but we need to become better in order for us to be on the front page of newspapers not only in the States but around the world.......Im sure no other country is giving as much media attention to this issue as we are. Lets get over it and lets move on.......GO USA

  1. Kenneth Elliott
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 3:48 p.m.
    WP is wrong, as well, about replay working well for other sports. It doesn't. It drags out an already ridiculously long game in both football and basketball, adds yet another clock stoppage, which takes away from the fluidity of the game, and provides very little relief in terms of 'getting things right', if any. There are a number of key places where soccer is vastly superior to other sports and the always running clock is one of those. Add to it the lack of video replay. Yes, Refs make mistakes. As do players and coaches. It's all part of the human experience. Replay doesn't really provide any improvement to the human element of sport, it just provides a different aspect of it. Coach Bradley is wrong as well. Refs don't do make up calls. Good grief. How could they. They simply call it as it happens. They don't keep a running tally of who's had the most offsides, the most dangerous plays, the most handballs, etc. The closest explanation to what happened is probably the one given by Mr. Simon. My take on it is that refs are deathly afraid to make calls against defenders in the box. A foul in the middle of the field is called, but the same foul in the box is not. It takes a lot of guts to make those calls. Most refs can't, or won't, do it. Going to the touchline to discuss what happened with his AR is exactly what Mali-boy should've done. It's not perceived as being weak. It's a valuable tool used by the best referees, especially at this level where they entrust the ARs to make calls for fouls that occur in front of them. A ref worth his salt would've checked with his AR IF he wanted to make sure everything was kosher. But in this case, again, he had made up his mind that the U.S. had made some sort of foul somewhere, only he knows where evidently, and that was that. So, he's proven that he's a ref not really worth his salt. Aren't we lucky to have drawn him for this game?

  1. Terence Chu
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.
    Kenneth, I agree with everything you said except for the point about make up calls. Refs definitely do make up calls, depending on the game, situation, and other factors. Not all refs do, and not all the time, but its too much to say that refs dont buckle to pressure from players on the field, coaches, and fans. Its happened way too many times in the game to deny.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 5:39 p.m.
    Refs are human and they are affected by the players, the crowd, and the importance of the competition. The best anyone connected to soccer or any other sport can hope for is for the arbiter to be impartial and do the best possible job he/she can. I hope there is no collusion happening here as that would taint this competition and sport beyond repair. Look at how Donaghy has affected the NBA, Pete Rose betting on BB, the BlackSox scandal, college point shaving incidents, etc...

  1. Jiminez Hernandes
    commented on: June 19, 2010 at 10:40 p.m.
    Hey Guy's and Dolls I've got to put my two cents on your thoughts, first of all and most important, get in touch with your local Soccer Association they will let you know when the next Referee course will start with you in it. Graduating from there read all of your comments made here,then and only then will you know how dumb some of these comments are. "Make Up calls" are you nuts? The game was Friday, we all suffered get on with it.

  1. lawrence Street Soccer USA
    commented on: June 20, 2010 at 10:09 a.m.
    We always talk to our players about the referee being like the weather--sometimes good, sometimes bad, but in neither case can you do much about it so focus your energy elswhere. I don't think there are any excuses for poor call, but nor does it help US Soccer o to play victim. We didn't mark people tight again in the opening minutes and Howard was off his line, poorly positioned in no man's land. As much attention as this controversy has generated, I any victory would have done as much or more. What i see as a great sign is how desperate the media is to have a great us soccer story to tell. I think our boys will give it to them on Wed!

  1. Michael Hearon
    commented on: June 20, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.
    WP, this is not AYSO! Not only are the refs paid well, they are treated like rock stars as far as lodging and travel. It is specifically spelled out by FIFA. If they have to fly it must be first class, lodging has to be the highest rated hotel for the area, meals and transportating are provided by the association hosting the competition. CC, it is equally dumb to think refs don't have emotions and make calls based on those emotions and that includes "make up calls". I did "graduate" and reffed 30+ years at many levels and have experienced the pressure one feels when all eyes are upon you in a game that decides a championship. If you give it your best effort and do it fairly, then that's really all you can do.

  1. Hector Jordan
    commented on: June 20, 2010 at 6:31 p.m.
    The USMNT has to just get passed this blown call..(yeah the ref made a rookie mistake and,no, he wont be punished by FIFA;actually he was reffed again ,the 4th ref on the ITALY NZ game today) and video replay will never get approved by FIFA;even tho this is the 2nd time the US team gets robbed by a ref(1/4 finals against Germany in WC 2002).So Bradley and the guys gotta be thinking about ALGERIA already.Hopefully Bradley SR.learned from his initial mistake against Slovenia and select a much firmer team up front and in defense.He should play a 3-4-3 formation with Gooch ctr Cherundolo RB and 'Los LB with EDU as a retracted defensive-offensive midfielder in the middle,Bradley Jr. & Torres (yes Torres,but this time on the right,his pos.) in contention. LD at the top of the diamond midfield, with JOZY and Buddle up front L & R and Gomez at the point.this should be a very attacking minded formation..anything but the defensive formation he sent for the 1st half against Slovenia..Good luck guys you can do it.

  1. Jonathan Simon
    commented on: June 21, 2010 at 11:13 a.m.
    Wow, quite a provocative and articulate thread going here. A few points/responses: No I'm not a "Brit," though I've noticed that a British accent tends to be an a priori advantage for referees here in the US! Yes I am fairly sympathetic to fellow referees working "in real time," without slow-mo and multi-angle reviews. Yes there was a specific US foul committed (I don't have the players' numbers because FIFA seems to have used its copyright to suppress the video--can anyone help with a url?). The refs are "wired," so "consulting" with the AR would have been for show at best, could not have changed the result (the whistle blew before the goal), and would not have meant a thing to players at this level. Best suggestion so far (I tried to make it myself but my initial post was too long and it got cut off) was preventive refereeing. It's asking for trouble to allow a set piece to BEGIN with five couples already slow dancing around the Area; get in there and don't start until the kids have their hands off. As for already having made his mind up to call it coming out because the initial foul (on Altidore) was a "weak" one, only Coulibaly would know and this is something he would not be likely to admit. Does it (not a "make-up call" per se, but "setting things to rights" so that the match moves forward as fairly as possible) happen? Yes it does. Is it risky? Of course. Can it be "sold" to the players? Yes, but it helps A LOT if the referee has established his or her approach, control, consistency, fairness, and has earned the players' respect by that point in the match. Coulibaly, unfortunately, was already on thin ice with both teams, but especially the US. All things considered, the level of dissent was fairly mild and spoke well of the level of on-field discipline and professionalism by the US team and coaching staff.

  1. Guillermo p Delapena
    commented on: June 21, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.
    Very good discussion, I like all points of view, I love the world cup, I'm gonna miss it so much when its over!! Can't wait for brazil 2014. One thing only, this game its call "football" not soccer, learn that or you will never understand the passion of the most beautiful sport in the world.

  1. predrag borna
    commented on: June 21, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.
    Few lines from Croatia...About that third score what else!Guys guys guys.Take it easy!You Americans are pretty new in those football issues.It is pretty good that"whole" nation buzz about football it is good for promotion but I wanna say that current American frustration on football is regular stuff in Europe and South America.NO country in football world is released of frustrations of any kind.Including those biggest.So for start you Americans stop playing pour girl from chatolic school sorounded with rapist...Back to main issue.I was ready to put my hand in fire that American third score was clean like tear of angel..but.Same evening I saw 3D simulation and what can I say .three bear hugs of Slovenians and one American by which American clear path to striker.Very quick very professional but it was.3D caught split second!Maybe sleepy eye from Mali saw something after all.But this is what you people do not want to hear.Beside how many of you really knows the rules of this game.I watch World cup since 1962.There is no video judge like in hockey.1966 Bulgarians masacred Brazil without sanctions same year soviet reff whistles score for England vs Germany which never existed and England wins Cup by.. theft .FINAL GAME.1986 Maradona scores with hand vs England.Last year Henry from France score with hand and Ireland is out in qualif.for World cup.etc.Just stop playing Dorothy because you cannot play this game in Ruby reds.Real issue is BAD defense of American team which is good but in permanent early deficit.Big team like Argentina controls game from begging to end and take own destiny in own hands.

  1. Charles Stamos
    commented on: June 21, 2010 at 8:10 p.m.
    predrag - Few lines from USA...Don't give us the we're the new guys playing the game and don't know what we're talking about crap! Those of us on this thread from the USA understand more than you know - there was global condemnation of the call - the whole world must not know football - I guess it's only played in Croatia - good luck with the 3D simulation in the future...by the way the definition of simulated - fake: not genuine or real; being an imitation of the genuine article; "it isn't fake anything; it's real synthetic fur"; "faux pearls"; "false teeth"; "decorated with imitation palm leaves"; "a purse of simulated alligator hide" wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn - sorry that's from Princeton and what do they know?

  1. predrag borna
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 3 a.m.
    Charlie...old man!Facts.I said what I saw.3D do not lie.That is what I saw.If I see proof I believe.You know..like Thomas.Did not believe in Jesus wounds until he touched it.You can understand this as a metaphore as well.So from your lines I understand that your duty is to "strike back" as a good American.I hope you will not start calling me names just because I saw what I saw.You guys there you are under terrible pressure of all kind of medias.Did ever cross your mind that you could be manipulated.You know TV and papers they need something to intrigue Charlie Stamos .But as one American president said."You cannot lie all people all the time".Well MY FRIEND(If you wish)maybe soon you understand words of Brian Clough manager of Notingham Forrest "They say football is question of life and death.This is wrong!It is more than that..."


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