AS the world’s eyes switch towards this summer’s global event, 25 referees tasked with taking a grip of the 64 games will fix theirs on matters in hand.
At the end of another gruelling season laced with controversy, the pressure on the men in the middle will intensify.
And, in what promises to be one of the most memorable tournaments, it’s no different for match officials.
However, to get the thumbs up from their Fifa assessors, the agenda must be set from the first whistle in Sao Paolo to the final hurrah at the Maracana.
Led by England’s finest Howard Webb, the whistlers will determine the success of the month-long bonanza and must clamp down hard as players resort to desperate measures to earn results.
Diving and play-acting:
The debate of what constitutes a dive or foul rumbles on with the number of cases – players deceiving officials by taking a tumble – increasing season by season.
Refs fooled into awarding penalties can decide the outcome of matches and define the destiny of a team’s season.
Werder Bremen’s Aaron Hunt didn’t read the script, apologising for falling under no contact and even told the ref to reverse his penalty decision.
If others followed suit, the ‘disease’ (coined by Tony Pulis) could be curable.
Deliberate handball or not?:
Often the most frustrating element of ‘the beautiful game’, handball is frequently misinterpreted with common sense lost in making a split-second decision. It’s worth remembering: defenders have two arms, two hands and no powers to remove them (without surgery).
Fighting against unbearable humidity, referees can be caught out by the frenetic tempo in international tournaments and require more help from linesmen (and additional assistants, with lightsabers to boot).
Keeping trouble causers in check:
No matter which league or club you follow, eccentric characters that fill column inches, and boast a sizeable ego to accompany their bulging pay-packets will exist.
Paolo Di Canio and Roy Keane had plenty in common during their careers but their ability to push a referee’s patience to the limit stood out. As the world’s stars descend on Rio, it’s down to the men in black to show them whose boss.
There’s only so much of any commodity you can take – visits from the in-laws, iPhone apps, or repeats of Bridget Jones. The same arguably applies to serial offenders, of the sporting variety.
Referees are condemned for disrupting games to punish trivial tackles but when fouls are totting up, they must exorcise judgement to decide how much the disciplinary tightrope can balance.
World Cup 2014 Brasil Image by FreeHD Wallpaper via Creative Commons/licence
Ramires Image by Ben Sutherland via Creative Commons/licence