If you want a refereeing controversy, these quotes from United States Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann can fuel one. More realistically, the U.S. boss is merely noting the assignment of Algerian Djamel Haimoudi is less-than-perfect for his team’s Round of 16 match against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup.
Asked about FIFA’s choice for Tuesday’s match, Klinsmann noted Haimoudi’s ability to speak French will allow him to communicate with most Belgian players. Implicitly, Klinsmann’s asking why, out of FIFA’s pool of potential selections, the organization chose an official that will be able to talk and listen to one team but not the other.
Add in the fact that the U.S. eliminated Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, and the U.S. boss has two minor objections. From reporting by Reuters:
“Is it a good feeling? No,” Klinsmann told reporters on Monday.
“He is able to speak French with their players on the field, not with us, and it is a country we beat in the last World Cup.
“Sometimes I don’t understand FIFA. I know it is difficult to always choose the right referee for the right games… We give it the benefit of the doubt.
“We hope it is not a concern, we know he did two games already and he did them very well. We hope he continues to referee in the perfect way.”
We hear coaches bring up issues with referees all the time, but almost none of those problems influence matches. The likelihood of a referee’s suspected conflicts influencing a match are so small, it’s almost a waste of time talking about it.
Almost, because Klinsmann brings up a good point. If there’s a way to avoid these conflicts, even if they amount to nothing more than perception, why not do it? Why not take a closer look at the assignments, consider these types of factors, and at least ask “are there other officials that could take this game?”
If the answer is “no”, so be it, but as long as head coaches like Klinsmann point out these potential conflicts (and, people buy into the speculation, as some do), why not avoid the issue?
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots, asked about the same issue, wouldn’t be drawn into a debate. He dismissed the potential conflicts as irrelevant, as we should, too. There’s no reasonable reason to think Haimoudi’s language skills or country affiliation will overwhelm his professionalism.
Still, FIFA can avoid this conversation entirely if it just took some extra steps before assigning officials.