Football Pitch or Oil Canvas?

It is the summer of 1986, Azteca Stadium, Mexico. The quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup between the Falkland warriors England and Argentina is in full swing. Maradona does a wall pass with Valdano but misdirects the pass to England’s Steve Hodge who micues. Ball is in the air as the keeper Peter Shilton goes for it. Common ball between a 185cm tall Shilton and a 165cm tall Maradona.

However, Maradona reaches it first—with the outside of his left fist. The ball goes into the goal, and the referee, not having seen the infringement, allows the goal. The Argentina captain describes the goal afterwards to reporters as “un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios” (a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God), coining one of the most famous quotes in sporting history.

Incidents of players seeking to gain an advantage by skirting the laws of the game, in the hope that the referee does not spot it, are common. This incident has derived its notoriety largely from the importance and closeness of the match, the animosity between the nations, and the responses of Maradona and the English media.

Inspired by the above instance and the errors comitted by referees on the field lately, a group of 3 scientists (referred to as freaks hereafter) have developed shirts and boots that change colour when the player commits a foul. Well I guess, in the words of FIFA, it is a colourful sport after all. Austrians Christoph Doettelmaver and Joachim Kornauth and German Svenia Schulz say that their “digital football pitch technology” can also provide for the goalposts and the ball to change colour whenever the ball passes into the net. Their USP: shirts, boots and balls have sensor-fitted LEDs in them that allow them to light up and change colour in case a foul is comitted. They are of the view that the flow of the match would not be disrupted and it would only make the game fairer.

Of course, with the colourful extragavanza and the entertainment involved in making the goalposts and the kits of the players change like the colours of a traffic signal, this sure will not be a sight one would like to miss; needless to comment on the transparency it would bring along.

However, in anticipation of viewing consolidated and unique footballing skill and perseverance, all that fans and supporters shall get is a riot of colors the moment a foul is committed or the ball crosses the goal line and that too, in a physical contact sport where minor touches and brushes are ignored to maintain the sanctity of the game. Imagine this happening in a World Cup final in the penalty box where the contact was minimal but because they were ‘fouls’, the kits changed colors and the non-deserving team won. Would that maintain fairness?

From the point of its implementation, statistics of a player would no longer show how much he ran or how many goals he scored, but how many times he went red. When a referee declares a foul, he does so keeping in mind the game around the field and not just the action in question. If this is implemented, the concept of advantages where the fouled team gets to continue would be dissolved or the colour-changing kits would have to be ignored. Moreover, scarce scientific resources would have to be fuelled to fulfill passions of such freaks to make the game error-free, something that even life cannot claim to be. It would just take away the uncertainty factor and make the game so clichéd. And what if the technology ditches midway? Who would account for that?

What will these freaks aka scientists try next? Place robots on the field and play an international friendly? What happened to the human aspect that is being overlooked? Will they simulate all judges in all competitions across the globe for fairness and accuracy? Are they going to simulate an election by using a telepathic sensor that this particular is destined to vote and thus his/her vote should be counted? In a game of football, a referee is looked upon as a judge, the supreme authority who has the right to call. Slowly you do away with referees, then get rid of the players, simulate the fans in turn and there is no end to this nonsense. All that is left in the end is abyss. Period

Deshan Tucker


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