Luis Suarez’s act of tasting human flesh (again) may revolutionise football.
This World Cup is the first with goal-line technology but FIFA are still technophobes in other areas of the game.
However, that could change following Suarez’s latest biting as football could vastly expand its use of technology to help referees.
When Suarez sank his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini, neither referee Marco Rodriguez nor fourth official Mark W Geiger knew what had happened. Had the fourth official had access to an instant TV replay things would have been much clearer. It is too early to say when such technology may come in or what form it could take but the fact that within hours of the Suarez incident FIFA executive members were willing to discuss such a subject shows how far the technology debate has moved.
Underlying this change is the realisation that while Suarez has been punished the retrospective judgment denies justice to his victim: Italy.
Had Suarez been sent off this could have changed the result. Minutes after Suarez struck a rattled Italy conceded and Uruguay were through. Now Suarez’s ban means Colombia, Uruguay’s next opponent, benefit while Italy are back home.
Bite the bullet: Video replays would have resulted in Suarez red cardHowever, even FIFA officials willing to think the unthinkable concede change will take time. After all, it took more than a decade of argument before they accepted goal-line technology, the key moment coming when Frank Lampard had his ‘goal’ against Germany at the last finals disallowed.
It was a few days after that incident that I discussed the issue with Franz Beckenbauer and was amazed to find how opposed he was to technology in the game.
Discussing the Lampard goal that should have been, he said: “Suppose, after the ball bounced back from the German goal, Germany went to the other end and scored. Then, do you call back play?”
Unconvinced that the speed of modern technology would give the referee clarity before this happened he insisted football was not rugby. “Our soccer is play, play, move, move, you don’t interrupt,” he said.
Michel Platini is just as opposed to technology and UEFA will continue to ignore its use to rule on goals. Both these great players fear that if football embraces technology, all decisions will eventually be taken by an official in the stand watching a monitor, rather than the referee. Their opposition was one reason it took so long for goal-line technology to come in.
However, the impact the Suarez incident has had means technology is no longer a forbidden subject, particularly as Beckenbauer is suspended from FIFA and Platini is in Sepp Blatter’s bad books. And, this time, the changes could go much further than deciding whether the ball has crossed the goal‑line.