Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup officiating: conspiracy or deep-seated bias. Part Two

In part one, I concluded that the most likely reason for the US getting two legitimate goals disallowed in two seperate games by two seperate refs was most likely the result of two refs acting seperately out of bias against the American team. The rest of the world is passionate about soccer; the US really isn't. Most US athletes grow up wanting to play football, basketball, or baseball.

In many other countries, elite athletes think of soccer first. In the US, if an elite athlete becomes a soccer player, it is almost by accident. Other countries know this, and it seems to gall the rest of the world that the US team might finally become a legitimate contender for the championship of the one sport that is "theirs." In the US, we are somewhat insulated from other countries, but the bottom line is that most countries, even the ones we help, hate the US.

My best guess is that officials see the US as a country that plays soccer as a hobby and don't want to see the US actually become a world soccer power. So, they walk out onto the field hoping in their hearts that the US loses. It doesn't even have to be conscious, but I would imagine that most officials, if asked in a casual atmosphere with their friends what they think of the US, would both start and finish with invective.

Worse yet, IMO, are players from other countries, and this is where my penchant for curiosity kicks in. One thing about the US-Algeria game really bothered me. It was obvious that Algeria wasn't playing to win, but for a draw. If the game had finished in a draw, England and Slovenia would have made it to the second round, while the US and Algeria would have failed to advance. to me, this begs a rather obvious question: Why was Algeria content to play for a draw?

To me, it was obvious that Algeria, with nothing to play for, wanted only to spoil the US team's chances and had no intentions of playing to win. My belief, like the writers of Freakonimics, is that people usually act in their own self-interest. This brings me to another question: Why was it in Algeria's self-interest to play for a tie instead of a win?

At the absolute tinfoil hat end of the spectrum would be a conspiracy between Algeria, Slovenia, and the officials who disallowed goals from the US. Other possibilities are an agreement between Algeria and Slovenia with no involvement by officials. Or, the more superficial explaination that the players have a lot of pride and hate to lose could be accurate.

Whatever the answer, the Algerians seemed extremely angry at the end of the game. They showed a lot more passion after the game than they did during the game. And this makes me wonder why.

Am I saying that there was a conspiracy? No. But I'm not saying that there wasn't, either. When West Germany and Austria manipulated the system in their final qualifying game in 1982, it caused FIFA to institute the current format, where final games are played simultaneously. This shows that teams aren't above "working the system" by manipulating the results of games.

This time, it worked out well and the two teams that deserved to advance from the US/England/Slovenia/Algeria group did. If there was any covert agenda on the part of the Algerians, I would find it ironic. Why? Becuase the team that was victimized by the collusion between West Germany and Austria was none other than Algeria.

If I was going to guess the truth here, it would be that Algeria was doing their best to help Slovenia advance. I don't know whether there was any agreement between the teams, but it certainly seems possible. At any rate, I will never get tired of the looks on the Algerians' faces when the game was over.

Rating: 3 Tinfoil hats out of 5


  1. So...just to be are postulating that Algeria and Slovenia entered into an arrangement to try to keep the U.S. from advancing in which a) Algeria would play for a draw and thus preemptively kill any chance of advancing to the knockout stage and b) Slovenia would intentionally lose to England so that they would, assuming that Algeria was successful in stopping the U.S. from winning, have to play in a difficult bracket that would likely include Germany and Argentina?

  2. As I have tried to make clear on countless to you and other minions of a website which will remain unnamed, my posts are merely specuation. I like to leave things open-ended and allow others to make their own judgements.

    So, basically, if you have nothing better to do than to create a "straw man" to attack, as you and your "friends" have done so often in the past, then just move along: there is nothing to see here.