It would not be a world cup of football if there was not a controversy about referees’ decisions. The one that has marked the 2010 edition so far is the decision by Malian referee Koman Coulibaly to disallow a goal by US player Edu that would have capped a furious comeback from two goals down by the US national team against Slovenia. As the final whistle was blown, bloggers were expressing their outrage either on forums, or by creating 127 facebook pages calling for banning the referee from further participating in the world cup or defacing Coulibaly's wikipedia page. The outrage was not only limited to bloggers but also journalists who were quick to point out that this was not the first controversy in which Coulibaly was involved. Even famed Sports Illustrated writer Peter King weighed in instantly by posting the following update on his twitter feed:
“Putting a ref from a small African country in charge of a vital WC game is like a Mid-American Conference ref doing the Super Bowl.”
and explains his tweet in more details in an article blaming FIFA for allowing “incompetent officiating to skate free”.
Nevertheless, before his sub-par performance, Coulibaly was the pride of his country [fr] as the lone Malian participating in the world cup but also as one of the only four referees from the African continent at the world cup. In the comment section of the article in Maliweb about Coulibaly written before the game, many bloggers posted words of encouragement and wished him well. Bass Junior writes [Fr]:
C'est un honneur pour le Mali.Bonne suite pour vous,petit coulibaly!
Dahico adds [fr]:
La reussite est au bout de l'effort personnel. Si le travail bien fait annobli l'homme, alors je dirai que Komas l'est deja. Bonne chance cher compatriote et que Dieu t'assiste dans tes actions et surtout soit impartiel comme toujours.
After the game, African bloggers were also at loss trying to understand Coulibaly's call. On Seneweb forum, Auteur thinks that referring is already an issue at the World Cup [fr]:
les arbitres commencent à gacher le tournoi avec des cartons stupides,but refusé et des décisions contestables. Je doute fort que les huitièmes de finale soient d'un niveau élevé car beaucoup de joueurs seront suspendus
Another commenter adds [Fr]:
Ce type d'erreur ne se commet a pareil. Que la bourde de l'arbitre soit aux depends des US, de la Grece Antique, ou du zimbabwe, n'est pas le cas. Le probleme c'est qu'on est en coupe du monde et cet arbitre torpille les chances de toute une equipe. Imaginez la frustation de ces joueurs americains qui font tout pour faire reconnaitre le football par leurs compatriotes.
Loic wonders why these types of call are still not reviewed right away [Fr]:
A quand la vidéo? Le seul argument qu'on nous oppose est un insuportable droit a l'erreur, un facteur humain qui entraine des “faits de jeux” d'autant plus iniques qu'ils sanctionnent ici une équipe méritante.
As one readers writes that it is a pity that the referee who made the biggest mistake is African, another one reacts [fr]:
Comme si les africains n'avaient pas droit à l'erreur!
Others believed that there is a bit of an overreaction to one bad call. Daanii N tries to explain the decision in the comment section of Le Monde [fr]:
Je trouve que tout le monde exagère en ce qui concerne la décision de l'arbitre. Au moment où il a sifflé, plusieurs joueurs slovènes et américains se bousculaient et se tenaient les uns les autres. Souvent, dans des situations comme celle-là, l'arbitres siffle pour l'équipe qui se défend. Le seul hic ici c'était, qu'une seconde après, les Américains ont marqué le but
Although the anger from the US viewers is understandable and likely justified, African bloggers were not fond of the portayal of Coulibaly in the media. Sean Murphy at Africafeed took offense to Peter King's assessment of Coulibaly and his country:
“And putting @SI_PeterKing at the helm of a twitter account is like erm, putting 2 Black Hawk helicopters into downtown Mogadishu, or was that an “unfortunate” analogy?
It’s not the issue of like or dislike of any specific referee. It’s the issue of competence. Apparently Coulibaly lacks in that area severely when it comes to soccer. It might not make many people happier, but the classy thing for him to do would be to publicly admit he made a bad call.
Ok. Coulibaly made a mistake. A big mistake of immense proportions. But a lot of umps/refs in every sport have made mistakes like that. Jim Joyce cost Armando Gallaraga a perfect game, but he admitted he made a mistake, apologized to Gallaraga and to baseball fans, and wound up shaking Gallaraga’s hand the next day. He was later voted the best ump in baseball. Coulibaly on the other hand has provided no explanation or remorse for his call. He has not even so much as made a public statement about it. If Coulibaly had reacted the same way Joyce did, I would have no problem with the call, and a lot of respect for him. But he didn’t. Barring something we don’t know about (like Mob involvement – I’m not suggesting anything, just allowing for the possibility) I do not think Coulibaly should be banned from the rest of the World Cup, but I do think he should at the very least issue a statement as to what exactly happened, and at best, apologize to all involved.
I am sure the FIFA dictatorship does not allow referees to make statements, let alone apologies for their mistakes.
Are u guys objective, subjective or racial. Let’s face it, man, referees are human at all times, good or bad and sometimes biased whether we like it or not. What about the French ref with Brazil vs Ivory Coast? Taboo!
Why does FIFA not introduce the system used in cricket for verification. Such mistakes or bad intentions are totally unacceptable.