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SOCCER / GRAHAME L. JONES : Expanded Role of TV Viewed Cautiously

May 02, 1994|GRAHAME L. JONES

The unwelcome specter of television looms larger and larger in the world of international soccer.

This summer, for the first time, television will play a more-than-journalistic role in the World Cup. In a decision that looks suspiciously like the thin edge of a wedge, FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has ruled that television images can be used to judge the guilt or innocence of players who commit fouls.

Such footage will be used only as a disciplinary tool after the fact and not during the game. Currently, disciplinary measures against players are taken solely on the basis of the referee's written match report.

"Television and video evidence will be used only in cases where there is some doubt about the responsibility of players sent off or not sent off," said Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, FIFA's general secretary.

"There will be no videos to artificially help the referee. The game must go on with this uncertainty because it's a game played and controlled by human beings and they must be permitted to make mistakes."

Fine, but how long will it be before the next step is taken and referees run over to check an instant replay on the sideline before awarding a penalty kick or red-carding a player?

Now that the door has been opened, all kinds of demons are likely to try to slip inside.

*

The Germans are finding out now what problems result when match decisions are taken out of the referee's hands.

A couple of weeks ago, Bayern Munich defeated Nuremburg, 2-1, in a Bundesliga match that enhanced Bayern's chances of winning the league championship and pushed Nuremburg closer to relegation to the second division.

But Bayern's opening goal, scored by Thomas Helmer against his German international teammmate Andreas Kopke, the Nurmeburg goalkeeper, should not have been allowed. Even the Munich players admitted afterward that the ball had not gone in.

Referee Hans-Joachim Osmers awarded the goal and Bayern earned two crucial points for its subsequent victory. Nuremburg protested. Bundesliga officials consulted television replays of the game and saw that Helmer's shot had not crossed the line.

For only the second time in history, league officials nullified the result and ordered the match to be replayed, a decision that infuriated Bayern Munich's coach, Franz Beckenbauer.

"This decision is completely incomprehensible," said Beckenbauer, Germany's 1990 World Cup-winning coach.

"We couldn't do anything about the matter at all and ended up being penalized. Any idiot can see that. While our opponents can rest, we have to play three matches in eight days."

Last Saturday, it tied the first of those and dropped into second place behind rival Kaiserslautern. On Tuesday, it will play Nuremburg again, then end the season on Saturday.

If Bayern Munich, 12 times champion of Germany and one of the world's great teams, loses this championship race, television's role in that loss will be argued long and loud.

What will decide matches from now on--the referee or a television camera?

*

Three hundred guests attended the lavish party. More than 200 pounds of shrimp and lobster were consumed. Cavier and champagne and a 40-pound cake did an equally fast disappearing act. All the while, a 24-piece orchestra played.

It was all in honor of Pele, 53, and his new wife, the former Assiria Seixas Lemos, 33. The pair, who were married in a civil ceremony last year in the United States, celebrated that marriage in Recife, Brazil, on Saturday.

But somehow it doesn't seem right.

In a land such as Brazil, where homeless children by the thousands wander the streets in search of food and shelter, Pele, of all people, should have seen the error.

He did his reputation no good by partying so ostentatiously with the privileged and powerful.

He was once barefoot, too.

*

The Italians have seen the light.

Defensive soccer is a thing of the past. Starting next season, teams will be awarded three points for a victory instead of two. The idea is to encourage more attacking play and reward the teams that go for goals.

The idea is taking hold on a broad scale. World Cup teams will receive three points for a victory this summer, and the three-point plan also will be in effect when qualifying for the 1996 European Championship continues this fall.

*

World Cup officials in the United States fell flat on their faces when they tried to force World Cup cities to ban the sale of alcohol during the tournament.

Now, Norway, one of the 24 participating teams, is having a slight drinking problem, too.

It seems that one of the Norwegian team's sponsors is a brewery that has pictures of the team on its advertising posters.

This has prompted Rune Bratseth, the team's captain and an ardent teetotaler, to threaten to quit if the advertising campaign is not withdrawn.

The sponsor has said it will comply.

*

With Japan and South Korea vying to stage the World Cup in 2002, a potential compromise has been voiced.

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