Thursday 15 July 2010

World Cup Final 2010: Mixed Signals and Expected Teamwork

This post takes a look at what transpired during the “nervy” few minutes leading up to the kick-off of the 2010 World Cup Final match. Oftentimes, it is easy to overlook this almost “surreal, twilight” moment. However, lots of information directly related to the next 90-120 minutes can be gleaned by observing the body language and facial expressions of the match officials at this time.

[England’s Referee Trio with their World Cup Final medals. But where is Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura, the 4th official? Is he “lost in translation”? Pic from Reuters.]

Let's go back to the very beginning ...

The following are a series of freeze frames that show the behaviour of the match officials immediately prior to kick-off.

[The match officials are, from left to right, Mike Mullarkey (AR2), Howard Webb (R), Yuichi Nishimura (4th) and Darren Cann (AR1). Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Orange) is Holland captain and Iker Casillas (Green) is Spain captain.]

[The coin toss is won by Spain’s Casillas, who indicates his choice of ends by pointing with his finger to his chosen end.]

With Spain having chosen ends, it is obvious that Holland have the kick-off. But here’s where Howard Webb gives off mixed signals or confusing messages:

[Webb turns to van Bronckhorst to tell him something, and uses a one-finger gesture. It is not clear that Webb has told van Bronckhorst that Holland has the kick-off.]

[Webb turns back to Casillas and uses both hands to make a round gesture of a “ball”. Is he telling Casillas that Spain has the kick-off?]

So what does a one-finger gesture mean to a captain whose team has the kick-off?
And what does a “round gesture using both hands” mean to a captain who has won the coin toss and chosen ends?

With the completion of the coin toss, the two team captains shake hands and Howard Webb simply walks away from the group. The English ARs stand there, ignoring the 4th Official, waiting only to shake hands with the two team captains. The Japanese 4th Official looks completely lost and alone. For a moment, Nishimura even looks around expecting something from the ARs. Where’s the team support and signs of encouragement?
[NOTE: Perhaps the officials eventually shook hands with each other later prior to kick-off but if so, this was missed by the TV cameras.]

[Webb walks away from the group without saying anything or giving a final handshake to his team. Nishimura looks isolated and uncomfortable.]

[This frame shows that Holland has the kick-off, which means Spain won the coin toss and selected the ends. Why then did Webb make a round ball gesture with his hands to Spain’s Casillas?]

This pre-kick-off incident may appear trivial and unimportant, but HKRef believes it may have some direct relevance on how the match unfolded for the match officials.

Are we seeing clear communication or mixed signals from the match officials?

Are we seeing group cohesiveness or individuals lost in their own thoughts?

It is obvious that the England trio is a tight unit (because they have worked together for a number of years), but they appear insensitive to Nishimura’s status as the 4th Official. Can they communicate clearly with him, or is there a cultural or language barrier present?

This begs the question: Will there be teamwork, free communication, support and encouragement?

Such questions and observations will be referenced in HKRef’s analysis of the second half (plus extra time) of the 2010 World Cup Final match.

An analysis of the first half is posted here.

More to follow …

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