Slovenia Versus USA - How the Malian Referee Spoiled the Beautiful Game

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Slovenia Versus USA - How the Malian Referee Spoiled the Beautiful Game

By Darrell Victor: While a referee has to make tough calls sometimes that some players, fans or team officials would not like, Malian referee Koman Coulibaly went way beyond on football's biggest stage. He appeared to lack control of the game between the USA and Slovenia and gave US striker Robbie Findley a card after the ball touched Findley on the hand in the Slovenian penalty area. However, the worst decision of the World Cup up to that match came in the latter stages of the match, when Coulibaly disallowed Maurice Edu's goal for a phantom infraction.

Fans and analysts were not only discussing the remarkable game - that Slovenia managed a two-goal lead and the US staged one of the most exciting matches at the World Cup. Instead, many were pondering the awful decision to disallow the goal. Video replays suggested nothing out of the ordinary. While FIFA discouraged pulling and tugging in the box, it appeared that the Slovenians were doing that more than the Americans were. Coulibaly's decision-making throughout the game was inconsistent and mysterious in some instances.

I would be the devil's advocate and try to explain the howler of that disallowed goal. Sometimes infringements occur simultaneously in football. In other words, both players from opposing teams might be committing fouls against each other that the referee cannot allow to continue. If the infractions are minor and not persistent, the referee can allow play to continue; otherwise, he has to make the call for one team or another.

However, the infractions in the Slovenia penalty area occurred with various pairs of players. Replays showed that the Slovenians appeared to initiate it and were continuing to do it after Donovan took the free kick. If anything, it would have been fairer to give a penalty to the USA, which would have been unnecessary since they scored. Instead, Coulibaly chose to disallow the goal and appear arrogant about it as well.

To be fair to the Malian referee, he was likely influenced by the FIFA refereeing committee at the World Cup. That committee determined that the German referee for the Argentina v Nigeria game should have disallowed Argentina's goal for an infraction by an Argentine player against a Nigerian defender. They would have discussed this and advised referees about it. However, I am sure that the committee had no idea that Coulibaly would apply the advice improperly.

Ultimately, the Malian official must accept responsibility for interpreting and applying the advice he received. He had a shocker on football's grandest stage; negatively influenced the outcome of a game and denied a beautifully worked goal from a set piece. One can only hope that it would be the Malian's last game at the World Cup. Without pedantic or questionable officiating, the beautiful game would be even more beautiful.

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