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Ref may be dropped from the World Cup

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Koman Coulibaly, the Mali ref who controversially disallowed the USA’s game-winning goal against Slovenia on Friday, will face an expedited performance review on Saturday. According to a FIFA source described as “close to senior figures on the refereeing panel,” if the review finds Coulibaly was in error in his decision, he is “likely to be excluded from the rest of the World Cup.”

The source continued, “If he is found to have made a serious mistake, especially one that affected the outcome, then he would be highly unlikely to play any further part in the tournament.”

Whatever the result of the review, it is unlikely that FIFA will announce why the referee decided to disallow the goal. Landon Donovan said after the match, “We asked the ref many times what it was or who it was on and he wouldn’t or couldn’t explain it.”

The FIFA rules for referees state:

The referee shall hand over to the FIFA general coordinator a match report at the stadium immediately after the match. On the report form the referee shall note all occurrences such as misconduct of players leading to caution or expulsion, unsporting behavior by supporters and/or by officials or any other person acting on behalf of an association at the match and any other incident happening before, during and after the match in as much detail as possible.

But, while a FIFA requires referees to submit a match report, it does not require a referee to explain the nature of his decisions.

Michael Kammarman, spokesman for the US team said on Saturday, “There is no process for appeals for a decision on the field. We have not asked for any official comment from FIFA in regards to the call.”

US coach Bob Bradley said he believes Coulibaly may have regretted his decision.

I think it’s a good goal, first. I think the only things really that could be called would be penalty kicks for us . . . There are times when a referee, for whatever reason, blows a foul and now thinks either he didn’t make the correct call on the foul or from a previous play, and then literally as soon as the free kick’s taken, he blows his whistle, OK? So you can speculate all you want about which guy and everything, I think it’s a waste of time. All right? I think there was nothing there. I think it’s a good goal. And that’s that.

Bradley went on to describe how the US team has been beseiged with questions about why referees in soccer are not required to explain controversial decisions as referees are in US sports.

We’re all accustomed to the fact that if it’s an NFL playoff game and there’s a call that’s in question, there will be a statement by the league from the referees, but FIFA operates differently. There are some aspects of [referee decisions] that are not made 100 percent clear [in soccer]. That seems to add to the discussion about the game. So from our end we get used to that. And we all have friends and family who ask us the same questions that most of you ask, and you end up saying that’s just how it is sometimes, and then you move on and you get ready for the next game.

Members of the US team were critical of more than Coulibaly’s unexplained call. Also pointed to was the decision to give Robbie Findley a yellow card for a handball that clearly did not happen as well as a series of non-calls. According to the Yahoo! Sports report,

Assessors also are likely to be concerned at the highly physical nature of the match. American striker Jozy Altidore was repeatedly involved in tussles with the Slovenian defense, and an ugly incident took place midway through the second half when Slovenia’s Marko Suler appeared to throw Altidore to the ground. Coulibaly issued Suler a yellow card, but the strong infraction was enough for a red card and an ejection.

An on-site assessor monitors the performance of referees in every World Cup match. According to the FIFA source quoted in the Yahoo! Sports report, the fact that a deeper review is happening so quickly suggests that FIFA is taking the criticism of Coulibaly’s performance “seriously.”

If Coulibaly is found to have made a game-changing error, he may still be assigned to officiate a match as a line judge or in some other support capacity.

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