The 2014 World Cup begins on June 12, when Brazil plays Croatia in the opening match. Reporters and editors for The Times will count down to the start of the tournament each day with a short capsule of news and interesting tidbits.
Perhaps the biggest change at the World Cup will be the introduction of goal-line technology for those rare instances of dispute. Far more common in the game are vexing tackles from behind, which FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has expressed new concern about.
Diving, or simulation, or what basketball fans call flopping, remains an act that can enrage players and fans. Potential World Cup referees and assistant referees from Asia, Oceania and Europe who this week attended a workshop at FIFA headquarters in Zurich were instructed to pay special attention to the nasty tackles from behind that halt the flow of play and can lead to injury.
FIFA’s head of refereeing, Massimo Busacca, said referees working the World Cup would be instructed to react to any signs of rough play.
“The safety of the players is very important, so the referees have to read the situation carefully at the beginning of the game,” Busacca told reporters. “If players start committing this type of foul, we have to take action to avoid it. We have to say, ‘We do not want to see this kind of football in this competition.’
“This is the role of the referee, to try to understand and anticipate. Sometimes the players forget because of the adrenaline. The role of the referee is to say: ‘Do you want to play today, or do you want to take a shower?’ We must try to avoid these situations which can destroy football.”
More recently, the focus has been on diving, where players embellish a foul or near-foul in a bid to secure a free kick in an advantageous spot on the field. But according to the English referee Howard Webb, who called the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, diving is a lesser issue for match officials.
“It’s one of the things we are always asked to be vigilant about because when it’s not accurately identified, it can have quite a damaging effect on the game,” Webb said. “If you look at the number of decisions made around simulation, they are quite low compared to the vast number of decisions we have to make. Although it’s a small problem, it has a big impact when it does happen, so of course it becomes quite serious.”
In Zurich, the 17 referees and 31 assistant referees (linesmen) were taken through a series of medical, physical, psychological and technical tests. FIFA said it had also begun to employ video analysis of match situations to help game officials. FIFA is planning another seminar, beginning April 7, for officials from Concacaf and South American nations.