Friday 30 March 2012

Comical Referee-Related Captions: Arsene Wenger

"No Arsène, I'm not Tony Adams in disguise. Leave me alone."

Arsène Wenger 'having a word' with AR1

Match: Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Arsenal and AC Milan on Tuesday 6 March 2012. The match finished 3—0, with AC Milan advancing to the quarterfinals 3—4 on aggregate.

Arsène Wenger faces the prospect of receiving another UEFA touchline ban, but remains adamant that he was justified in confronting Referee Damir Skomina from Slovenia after Arsenal’s Champions League exit against AC Milan.

Related Posts: UCL: Strange Impressions of FIFA ARs and UEFA EARs and A Slovenly AR

Happy to receive other people's Comical Captions in the comments section (below).

Monday 26 March 2012

Pondering the Probert Professional Puzzle Part 2

This post continues from Part 1 and looks at another performance aspect of EPL Referee Lee Probert. Namely, what is he looking at?

The following incidents occurred during the EPL match between Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic on Tuesday 31 January 2012. The match finished 3—1.

Incident One What is Probert Looking at?

We have already seen this incident of serious foul play in a previous post. But here is a perspective that shows Probert's position and his 'unheightened' or 'uninterested' take of the unfolding situation. Here are the freeze frames:
Referee Lee Probert appears to take his time and amble over to see what is the matter

Probert taking a closer look at the injured player

Question: What is Probert looking at?

Incident Two What is Probert Looking at?

This incident is a typical example of Probert's overall match performance. As Spurs (white) collect the ball from their own penalty area and look to push forward, what is Probert looking at? Here are the freeze frames:

Looking at the above freeze frames, it is simply quite incredible to see a professional Referee perform like this. In this sequence where the ball is moving from one half of the field to the other half, Probert has not taken his eye off the ball for one moment.

What would happen if a Wigan (blue) defender had fouled the Spurs attacker (or how about the reverse, whereby the Spurs attacker had fouled a Wigan defender)? And in such a scenario would the AR help Probert? Had a foul occurred, it is highly unlikely that Referee Probert would have spotted any foul play.

Also, this is a good time to recommend an excellent post titled What is the referee looking at? from the wonderful blog For the Integrity of Soccer, which is compiled by the highly-respected 'diamond' duo of Robert Evans and Edward Bellion (or Bob and Ed, as they like to be called).

In that particular post, Bob Evans masterfully uses the example of a talented 7-year-old player to illustrate the importance of having vision and looking ahead. He cleverly asks: "Could this technique exhibited by a seven-year-old player be used by referees?"

Bob and Ed's blog is a treasure trove full of pearls of wisdom and nuggets of useful information about the Art of Refereeing. They are also 'diamond geezers' to boot!

To coin a cliche, Probert just appears to be looking but not seeing.

In many of the recent analyses this blog has made about Lee Probert, he appears to just be looking at the ball.

Probert doesn't appear to be looking at the perspective surrounding the vicinity of the ball (i.e. the surrounding players) or the perspective beyond the ball (i.e. in the space where the player intends to play the ball). He appears to just be entirely focused looking at the ball (as demonstrated in Incident Two).

This conclusion may help explain why Lee Probert's performances this season (i.e. here and here) have been noticeably poor.

Monday 19 March 2012

Hong Kong Police Arrest 10-year-old Soccer Player

The unfolding saga sees the police arrest the 10-year-old ESF Lions player who kicked his opponent in the head.

What in Hong Kong is going on?


10-year-old arrested for kicking opponent in Hong Kong football match
Hazel Parry | 18 March 2012

Hong Kong (dpa) – A 10-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly kicking an opposing player in the head during a football match in Hong Kong, a news report said Sunday.

Police arrested the expatriate boy for assault after a video of the incident last weekend was viewed by more than 200,000 people on YouTube, the Sunday Morning Post newspaper said.

The boy was released on bail to report to police next month.

The injured 12-year-old reportedly suffered bruising and loose teeth but was not seriously injured.

The minimum age for criminal liability in Hong Kong is 10.

Friday 16 March 2012

Violent Conduct by a 10-year-old Football Player in Hong Kong

Last weekend in a U12 football match in Hong Kong, a 10-year-old boy kicked his opponent in the head. The videoclip of the incident, plus other unfair challenges, went viral within days.

ESF player (blue 2) kicks his opponent (Kitchee white) straight in the face

The caption is written by the videoclip uploader.
IMHO, kids at that age should understand what is right and wrong.

Kitchee U12 v ESF U12 dirty tackles (YouTube)

The youth football community in Hong Kong is taking a long hard look at itself. In the past week there has been much written and blogged about this issue, and there will be more to come in the weeks ahead.

What is the root cause, and who is ultimately responsible?

Monday 12 March 2012

QPR 'Goal' Against Bolton Would Not Have Counted

Regular readers of this blog will likely already know why QPR's 'goal'—where the whole of the ball passed over the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar—would not have counted in the first place. The EPL match took place on Saturday 10 March 2012 and finished 2—1 to Bolton Wanderers.

The header from QPR's Clint Hill (orange, furthest right) is 'saved' by Bolton's goalkeeper Adam Bogdan (purple)

In the 19', the ball crosses the goal line after it is headed by QPR's Clint Hill (orange) from a Joey Barton corner. Bolton's goalkeeper Adam Bogdan (purple) claws it away. After the match, QPR coach Mark Hughes said:
"Clearly the ball was over the line. The linesman is there to see that."

First, the AR could not have clearly seen the incident and therefore could not make the call. It is ridiculous for Hughes to blame the AR for not being able to clearly see that incident. The AR would have to have X-ray vision to be able to see the ball through the goalkeeper's arm and body.

Second, there is another reason why the goal would not have been allowed. Strangely (and perhaps unsurprisingly), no news reports or commentators mentioned this legitimate reason (e.g. see BBC Sport, Guardian, Telegraph, and Daily Mail reports).

What is the legitimate reason that justifies why the goal would've, and should've, been disallowed?

Saturday 10 March 2012

Six Suspicious Substitutes

The following incident occurred during the Bundesliga match between Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim on 25 February 2012. The match finished 1—2.

In the 69', with Hoffenheim (black) leading 1—0, Wolfsburg (green) were awarded a penalty.

Six suspicious Hoffenheim substitutes (red bibs, black shorts) standing on the goal line

During the penalty kick, several Hoffenheim substitutes (red bibs, black shorts) were standing on the goal line. They were shuffling and moving about, and the substitute closest to the goal was edging closer and closer to the goal post during the penalty kick.

The match officials should have been aware of this and taken action to remove the substitutes from the vicinity before the penalty kick was taken. The Referee would also have been correct to caution the substitute nearest the goal who was obviously trying to distract the penalty taker.

At this level, it is a puzzle why the match officials allowed such a scenario to take place.

Question: Had the Wolfsburg player missed his penalty, what would have been the proper restart?

Friday 9 March 2012

UCL: Strange Impressions of FIFA ARs and UEFA EARs

The following observations derived from the Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Arsenal and AC Milan on Tuesday 6 March 2012. The match finished 3—0, with AC Milan advancing to the quarterfinals 3—4 on aggregate.

The match officials, all from Slovenia, appeared to work well although aesthetically and by FIFA standards the actions and impressions given out by one of the Assistant Referees (AR1, SAR or whatever moniker is preferred) was inconsistent with the rest of the team of officials, and appeared odd and unprofessional.

Observation One AR1 Using Right Hand For Flag and Giving Obvious Hand Signal

AR1 is holding the flag in his right hand when running down the line towards the corner flag. This is non-standard technique and looks ugly. It looks ugly because a) it is inconsistent with the correct standard technique, as displayed by AR2, and b) there is jerky flag movement as AR1 runs.

Initially, I thought perhaps AR1 had something wrong with his left hand (an injury?), which could have explained why he was simply using his right hand all the time to hold the flag. However, had AR1 been injured this would have led to the next question about why he did not notify his Referee group and thus be replaced. It is doubtful that AR1 was injured.*

Observation Two EAR1 Actively Assisting and Giving Obvious Hand Signal

First, a tight Offside decision. Despite the likelihood that AR1 was not side-stepping, the decision to give the attacking side the benefit of the doubt is fine (if that is indeed what AR1 gave). Note: An observer can tell whether AR1 allowed this because we have seen that AR1 prefers to use obvious hand signals during onside situations (such as in Observation One and Six).

This attacking move by Arsenal (red) led immediately to the following situation ...

No offside given

Second, Arsenal's Robin van Persie (red) slides into AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati (orange). EAR1 reacts by raising his arms and giving an obvious signal to the Referee that it is a foul.
EAR1 is actively assisting the Referee

Observation Three AR2 and Standard Technique

Looking at AR2, there appears to be no outward problems.

Observation Four Penalty. Who called?

When required, EAR1 has actively assisted the Referee (as in Observation Two) but this time EAR1 does not do anything even though his position is nearest to where the foul was committed. Did the Referee make the call himself, with no assistance from his AR and EAR?

During the penalty kick, what is EAR1 doing? Can he see whether the goalkeeper is standing on the goal line, and moves off his goal line at the moment the ball is kicked? Is this the standard UEFA technique for EARs?

Observation Five Good Advantage, Fitness and Positioning

There is a foul in the middle of the park but Referee Skomina plays a good advantage.**

The advantage plays out with the Referee continuing his run into the penalty area and putting himself in a good position.

Observation Six AR1 Using Right Hand For Flag and Obvious Hand Signal

AR1 has two non-offside decisions to make in the following sequence:
AC Milan (black) not offside: phase 1

AC Milan (black) not offside: phase 2

Observation Seven R gives IFK?

We know AR1 regularly (and inexplicably) gives an obvious hand signal to indicate "no offside". Therefore, it is a puzzle why Referee Damir Skomina raised his arm to indicate an IFK. Why? It cannot be for offside since AR1 has not raised his flag.
Referee Skomina raises his arm. Does he indicate an IFK?

The Arsenal goalkeeper (grey) gained possession of the ball and carried on, so there was no stop in play. What was the Refereeing signalling?

Observation Eight Arsenal's Arsene Wenger Complains

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger vents his frustration at AR1.**
The 4th Official (blue, left) tries unsuccessfully to stop Arsenal's Arsene Wenger (blue, right) from approaching AR1

*Note 1: Notice how at the end of the match AR1 is now holding the flag with his left hand. His left hand is therefore not injured.
Also notice the flag quality. The AR's flag handle does not appear to be a beep-buzzer type, so the match officials are probably all communicating with the Referee via CommLinks. However, the "magic" wands used by the EARs appear to be standard-issue beep-buzzer types. What's going on?
Look at AR1's Flag Handle

**Note 2: Arsene Wenger complained about the match officials. He said :
"I was not happy with the referee tonight because I felt he gave many free-kicks in the middle of the park. Every time they went down a free-kick was given for them, and they sensed that very quickly and they used it very well."

If there appears to be an advantage to play on, then the Referee appeared to give it (as in Observation Five). If not, then there is no problem to give a free kick. The Referee also played 3 minutes of stoppage time in the second half. There were 4 substitutions and 4 bookings in the second half, so at least 3 to 4 minutes of stoppage time is about right.

If all Arsene Wenger is 'unhappy' about is the time-wasting aspect of the match, then he doesn't have much to complain about. It is a natural part of the game, and if the situation were reversed his team would no doubt do all they could within the Laws to slow down the match. His Arsenal team played magnificently and had they scored the crucial fourth goal following the Referee's good advantage play (Observation Five), then perhaps Wenger would not be complaining.

No major problems. However, from a Referee Observer's view, the actions of AR1 and EAR1 appeared strange. Regarding AR1, such non-standard actions of FIFA match officials can be observed in all football confederations around the world. By being either disrespectful of the basic required standards, ignorant of the latest expectations passed on during UEFA- or FIFA-sponsored retreats, or just plain arrogant and complacent, these match officials do themselves, their colleagues and their Refereeing Departments a huge disservice.

This does not mean that coaches like Arsene Wenger can "have a go" at match officials like AR1 (as in Observation Eight). Nevertheless, AR1's non-standard techniques do not, and should not, excuse him from ignoring his professional responsibilities and image.

I will mention the actions of UEFA's EARs in a future post, since I do not believe there is a consensus amongst match officials (and within UEFA) about the responsibilities and performance of EARs.

This post has a Part 2 and a related comical post.

The match officials were :
Damir Skomina (SVN)
Assistant referees
Primož Arhar (SVN), Marko Stančin (SVN)
Fourth official
Mitja Žganec (SVN)
Additional assistant referees
Matej Jug (SVN), Slavko Vinčić (SVN)

Follow Up
UEFA Charge Arsene Wenger for improper conduct noting his complaints about the match officials.