July 17, 2005

Pele is no fan of television instant replays

By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Even Pele, the man who coined the
phrase "The Beautiful Game," admits there are a few ugly
blemishes on the face of modern-day soccer.

Although he supports rule changes to counter cynical
tackles, blatant time-wasting, diving, barely concealed
shirt-pulling and delaying tactics at free-kicks, the greatest
player of all time draws the line at using video technology.

That, he says, would interrupt the flow of the game, even
though it might solve arguments over goals such as Liverpool's
winner against Chelsea in May's European Champions League
semi-final in which there was no conclusive evidence that the
ball had crossed the goal line.

"I think the technology can help but not on this point
because in soccer you cannot stop the game and say 'Okay, let's
see if it was a goal or not' like in American Football."

The National Football League (NFL) allows coaches to
challenge refereeing decisions, including whether a touchdown
was scored. It has become common to hold up games while the
referee peers into a television monitor to review the video

The National Hockey League (NHL) has cameras mounted inside
the goalposts and a coach can ask off-ice officials to go to
the videotape to see whether the puck crossed the goal line or
rebounded out so quickly that the referee missed it.

Pele, however, wants no such instant replays in soccer,
even if they prove that the eyes of officials missed something.

"With the TV it's different than horse racing. In football,
the ball bounces and continues," Pele said in a recent
interview with Reuters. "We have discussed a lot about that
because I am a member of a FIFA committee, with other players,
(Franz) Beckenbauer, with (Michel) Platini.


"And that discussion is the same one we had in 1966 after
the (West) Germany-England final."

In that match, Geoff Hurst's shot hit the bar and bounced
down. The linesman signaled a goal and the referee let the
score stand as German players protested that the ball had not
crossed the line. Hurst went on to score again in England's 4-2

"I think we can use technology, maybe with a chip in the
ball, like in tennis, I think this is okay," said Pele, now 64.

The world soccer body, FIFA, will experiment with such
"smart" balls at the world under-17 championship in Peru in
September, with a view to using them in the 2006 World Cup.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has welcomed the idea of a
microchip sensor in a ball sending a signal to the referee when
it crosses the line.

Although he is opposed to two referees running a game, Pele
favors extra linesmen. "The biggest mistakes are in the penalty
area and when the ball passes the goal line. So you could have
one person on the line, like in tennis, this avoids a lot of

"The referee, when he has to run from midfield, looking at
the ball and players, sometimes he doesn't have time to see."

During a conversation with Reuters at New York's Museum of
Modern Art, where he introduced a documentary film of his life,
Pele renewed his call for more protection for creative players,
like himself, and said young players were selling their souls
for big corporate money.

He said rules governing defensive walls at free-kicks
should be changed to give more advantage to the attacking team,
and said he hated defenders standing over the ball to prevent
free-kicks being taken quickly.


"I am a forward, and sometimes the defenders come to kick
you," he said, with a wry smile. "Why can't we change the wall?
If you come from the midfield and dribble past one, two, three,
four players and you get in the box and...foul!

"Then the wall is against you, this is ridiculous, I don't
know why they don't change that."

Pele, who scored 1,281 goals in a career with Brazil's
Santos, the New York Cosmos and the Brazilian team that won two
World Cups, said the biggest change in the game since his days
had been off the field.

"I think the involvement of big companies, sponsorship, has
made the game become more competitive," he said.

"But on the other side, the competition has become too
hard. What makes me feel afraid and a little uncomfortable is
the young people today lose a little the love for the game."

Big money discouraged any sense of loyalty for clubs, said
Pele, who turned down dozens of European offers in the 1960s.

"Young players come because they love to play. But now they
play for six months and then they move to Arsenal or Manchester
United, or Real Madrid or Barcelona, that's the problem.

"That scares me, because they play for the money now. I
think FIFA must work to change that mentality. Money is
important, but it is important to love the club and the game