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June 22, 2010

Referees' chief defends decisions

By Andrew Warshaw, Pretoria

The head of FIFA's referees committee has insisted no risks have been taken with the appointment of officials for World Cup games.

Koman Coulibaly
GettyImagesKoman Coulibaly: Under pressure.

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As debate intensifies over the standard of officiating following yet another controversial display in the Brazil v Ivory Coast game that infuriated both teams, Jose Marcia Garcia-Aranda admitted that not every decision had been correct but defended his 30 officials and said no sanctions should be taken against any of them.

"We have seen excellent decisions on the field of play," said Garcia-Aranda at a referees training workshop on the outskirts of Pretoria. "We are trying to improve those decisions that we consider are not good enough and for that reason we are training every day."

Different interpretations of the rules have led to a spate of questionable decisions while Malian referee Koman Coulibaly's error in disallowing the USA a perfectly good winner against Slovenia has been denounced across the globe.

Interestingly, Coulibaly is not among the officials selected for the second round group of matches and seems certain to be one of those axed by Garcia-Aranda and his colleagues, although the FIFA chief refused to single out anyone for either criticism of praise.

"All the referees have been working together in different tournaments for the last few years and all of them are trying to apply the rules in a uniform manner,'' he said. ''But not all matches are the same, the players are different."

Grilled further over Coulibaly's blunder and demands for referees to explain bad calls, Garcia-Aranda said this was simply not possible. "Some decisions are not good on the field of play and this is, for human beings, natural. We can't explain every decision. Our duty is to prepare them in the best way we can.

"Later, maybe with the benefit of 32 cameras and thousands of people assessing this kind of situation, we realise these decisions were not fully correct (but) the duty of the referees is not to explain their decision.

"The referees are there to try to implement the laws of the game on the field, not to explain every single situation. Otherwise they are not focused on the game, they are focused on the media. The best players in the world also make mistakes. It's wrong to say the credibility of football is in doubt."

Garcia-Aranda declined to identify which officials will be leaving tournament but made the point it wasn't just the experienced European referees that had been getting the plaudits in games where the officiating has been spot on.

Uzbeki Ravshan Irmatov, the youngest referee at the tournament, handled the opening game of the World Cup impeccably and Garcia-Aranda said: "We were sure from the beginning that he is, and was, the right man."