Brazilian Club Appeals Correct Decision


The BBC’s South American correspondent Tim Vickery is reporting on a most unusual incident in Brazil.

A picture of a Brazilian referee selected totally at random

Palmeiras play in the city of Sao Paulo. On October 27th, they lost a match at Internacional 2-1. They had a goal disallowed after a handball, correctly as it turned out.

Yet they are appealing the decision.


You won’t be after the next episode of Saop!

The goal by Argentinian forward Hernan Barco was initially awarded by referee Franscisco Nascimento who did not see Barco’s handling of the ball. After much discussion, the goal was subsequently disallowed.

Palmeiras are claiming that television replays were instrumental in the overturning of the award, and that Mr Nascimento should not have considered such evidence. They claim that a third party watching the replays had spoken to the linesman who had spoken to the referee and that had prompted the U-turn.

Vickery makes two points which prima facie seem to contradict each other:

“Launching a complaint because an illegal goal was ruled out would seem to contravene football’s unofficial rule 18 – the request that common sense be applied in the application of the 17 laws of the game. Some people, though, think Palmeiras have a case – and even if they do not, the seriousness of their situation justifies such desperate measures.”

As he says, the application of common sense is an unofficial rule. That Palmeiras need the points should not be relevant though, because it would suggest that policy can be waived with the needs of the parties affected. Does a side needing three points to avoid relegation have a different level of evidence against their mid table opponents?

Common sense may tell you that the right decision has been made and Palmeiras have little case for a replay of the match.

But let’s probe deeper. Let’s assume that there are more people on the home side’s payroll with access to monitors than visitors. Without knowing the identity of the person who spoke to Mr Nascimento, we cannot assume he would have done so if the facts had not favoured Internacional, the home team.

In this case, it was indeed the authorised fourth official, who informed a linesman.

But who told him? Anyone who has observed the positioning of a fourth official at a game know that he is stuck in the danger zone between the two coaches. He may, but usually has not, a television monitor close by. Neither is it within his match day obligations to seek out replays for the purpose of overriding the referee.

We can probably deduce that somebody, possibly somebody very irate and animated, drew his attention to Barco’s handball. This put him in an awkward position. Can he really say “I am not interested in what actually happened. Please do not show me the video.”?

He ought to have perhaps, but in this case by some sequence of events, he did indeed see a replay. Having seen it, can he really not tell the linesman? Can he in turn keep it to himself?

Once he knows of an injustice, it would take a brave man to say nothing. This is why legal systems have rules of evidence.

The laws of the game leave a great deal to the discretion of the referee and his word is supposed to be final. Once only in cases of mistaken identity is he overruled. This year Major League Soccer has introduced post match video gazing to wipe out the scourge of diving and clamp down on serious foul play which may threaten the careers of opponents.

Hitherto very few have suggested that matches are actually  replayed bar the somewhat shameless attention seeking of the Football Association of Ireland after Thierry Henry’s handball in a World Cup qualifier.

That issue, like Palmeiras’, covered a handball, a decision that firmly falls under the referee’s discretion. Not all cases of contact between hand and ball are free kicks. The referee’s judgment is far more of an arbiter than the case of a ball fully crossing the line where there are few shades of grey between black and white.

The disallowing of Barco’s goal did not lose Sao Paolo the match. Nor will it deny them the title. Thierry Henry did not cost Ireland the World Cup.

Vickery reinforces that point as his article begins to veer off the particulars of the incident:

“It is one of the great truths of football that everyone always thinks the referee is favouring the other side. Such a state of affairs is not hard to understand because football people live a life of constant insecurity. The easiest way to deny or avoid unwelcome truths is to blame the referee.”

So Palmeiras may be publicly hanging their fortunes on a particularly bizarre sequence of events but they have highlighted a loophole. So much attention has been given to the debate of when we may use video evidence, that no time has been left for when it is specifically inadmissible.

If you look at a video replay, you may be able to see that matter in the hands of the authorities. Or not.


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  1. “This year Major League Soccer has introduced post match video gazing to wipe out the scourge of diving”

    Oh, I busted a gut reading that. Good one!

    One day MLS will have a decent enforcement initiative, but the disciplinary committee, as you slyly allude, ain’t it.

  2. Actually, several players have been fined and their behaviour has improved, including at least two players called Alvaro. 😉

    There is considerably less diving than last year. MLS can claim a small success here.