FCE’s Daryl Fordyce tries to escape Montreal’s Calum Mallace in front of the Edmonton Supporters Group last week. PHOTO: FC EDMONTON/TONY LEWIS
Chances are, if you saw the soccer headline “Cup semifinal: Officials add six minutes, home team awarded game-winning penalty near end of stoppage time,” you’d roll your eyes and think to yourself about the corruption that plagues matches in Central America or Eastern Europe or Asia. Steaua Edmonton vs. Partizan Montreal.
Now, judging by the reaction on Twitter and message boards — FC Edmonton fans are incensed that, well, the six-minutes-plus-penalty story originated in Canada. And the conspiracy theories abound, as is the nature of any fan of any underdog who feels his or her team of choice was done in by a dubious call.
Last night, referee Drew Fischer ruled that FCE defender Mallan Roberts handled the ball in the penalty area off a 96th-minute free kick, even though the defenders hands were held behind his back. Today, FCE picks up the pieces and wonders how what would have been a franchise-defining Amway Canadian Championship semifinal win over the Montreal Impact turned into a 96th-minute nightmare.
To be fair to Fischer, no one should be talking conspiracy. It’s unfair to call refs cheats unless you have a smoking gun. He made a mistake. He’s human. And, as many Impact fans would argue, he may have missed a penalty call a few minutes before the end of the match, when FCE defender Albert Watson and defender Sanna Nyassi got tangled at the edge of the area and contact continued into the area.
In this case, it’s unfair that a referee can’t speak to the media. Because it’s a lot easier for Fischer to hear or talk about the fact he made a mistake than be accused of being corrupt. They are two entirely different things. And Fischer doesn’t determine how much time added on goes on the board, either.
This is much more a case of what happens when part-time referees are assigned to big games. Referees at this level need to be full-time professionals. Same for any major league or competition in the world. In Europe, we shouldn’t hear about top-tier match officials’ day jobs. Nor should that be the case in North America. But, because we don’t invest in officiating like we should… well, we sorta get what we deserve.
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