Second match for all teams at the World Cup. Last Friday for example, Germany, who were very convincing in their first match, suffered a surprise loss against Serbia, Slovenia and the US reached a draw in one of the most entertaining matches at the World Cup so far before England disappointed against Algeria (0-0).
Those three matches on Friday also saw three completely different kinds of refereeing a game. In the first match (GER vs. SRB), referee Alberto Undiano Mallence from Spain pulled eight yellow and one second yellow (i.e. red) card in a match that was not particularly unfair or aggressive. Referee Koman Coulibaly (SLO vs. USA) showed five yellow cards, but more importantly denied a goal the US scored five minutes from time (which would most probably have won the game for them) for a reason only he knows. In the evening match (ENG vs. ALG), referee Ravshan Irmatov only awarded two yellow cards and remained invisible for most of the match.
Referees are a human factor of the game, and I already referred to this topic a little earlier when I was asking if having a replay official would make sense in soccer. Each referee has a different style and a different acceptance level when it comes to judging fouls. For the players in a tournament that is quite problematic as they have to adjust their style of play to the style of refereeing in each game. Also, there’s a one match ban for each player receiving his second yellow card before the semi finals, so those teams that were active in matches with referees showing a lot of cards might have a disadvantage later in the tournament.
It’s no surprise that refereeing is a very emotional topic for the players, as some of the players’ post match comments easily show: Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER) on referee Undiano: “If there’s a red card in every match, something is wrong. It’s not good for the game, it destroys soccer”. One day later, Australian Harry Kewell was fuming about Roberto Rosetti, who showed him a red card: “He is the judge, jury and executioner. I am devastated, the guy has killed my World Cup”. Then there was South Africa’s coach Carlos Alberto Parreira speaking about referee Massimo Busacca after his team got defeated 3-0 by Uruguay: “(…) the worst refereeing performance in this competition so far (…) He was very unfair against our team from the very beginning, the way he acted against our team (…) He was giving fouls that weren’t fouls, giving yellows that weren’t yellows and then he left the ground with a smile (…) He doesn’t deserve to be here”. Wow. (Just for the record: When Parreira was speaking about “the worst refereeing performance in this competition so far”, that was before Stephane Lannoy’s display at Brazil vs. Ivory Coast)
Also in our jobs, there are a lot of referees, all having a different approach and some of them driving you as crazy as Undiano did with Schweinsteiger, Rosetti did with Kewell, Busacca did with Parreira and Lannoy did with everybody. How about your boss who just doesn’t seem to recognize what you accomplish and only criticizes the few little things you do he doesn’t like. How about his boss, who always gives you the feeling that you are just completely unimportant and the world could well do without you? How about that guy in HR who criticized you before and whom you are sure off that he will try all he can to destroy your career just like Rosetti did with Kewell’s World Cup hopes.
Do you also complain about them when interviewed by your friends and colleagues?
Just like in soccer that doesn’t make any sense at all. A referee won’t take back a decision and those people you complain about in your job won’t care or, if the do, they will probably not react by saying “yes, you’re right, I’m sorry, would you accept if I doubled you salary instantly to make up for it?”.
So far so good, but there’s also another way of complaining, I call it a “silent complain”. It’s trying to block or thwart those that you are upset about, because “they were wrong, I was right, and they have to see it”. After Miroslav Klose got booked for a minor offense early in the game on Friday, he did not change his approach at all. He received his second yellow card for virtually the same foul a few minutes later. “I was right and they have to see it”.
“Silent complains” are not very clever. They create a bigger emotional distance to the one you complain about which limits your ability to understand his or her position and to adjust yourself to it. A Player with Klose’s level of experience (he is one of the most successful scorers in the history of the World Cup) should have been able to realize that the referee was puling cards rather quickly and should have adjusted his game accordingly.
Complaining silently means responding to a complicated situation with stubbornness and by using power instead of the brain, and in many cases it was power what lead to the situation people are unhappy with.
Take a step back. Relax. Try to see it from the perspective that the guy you complain about is also a human being with personal targets and emotions. What if Klose would have thought about what Undiano’s targets and feelings in that game were?
Does he just want to show as many cards as possible to demonstrate to his bosses that he is strong and capable to take uncomfortable decisions? Then try to make him show these cards to your opponents instead of to yourself by bringing them into situations in which they have to little commit fouls by e.g. creating high speed one-on-one situations.
Is he so low on self-confidence that he wants to show he is the most powerful man on the pitch? Then maybe show him that you accept his decisions rather than arguing with him all the time.
Or does he maybe just have (in contrast to you) the opinion that tackles from behind, even when done in a very soft way, should be punished? Then try to run faster to put you in a position in which you don’t come from behind anymore.
When you blame others it makes you blind. When you try to see things from their position instead, it makes you see new opportunities and you can respond to the challenge in a creative way.
While Klose and Schweinsteiger were still complaining about the bad ref, US coach Bob Bradley said, when asked about the ref who disallowed the winning goal: “Typically on the field when things happen fast, it’s not that referees can explain every call they make (…) We all have friends and family who asked us the same questions most of you [interviewers] asked us. You end up saying that that’s just how it is sometimes and then you move on and you get ready for the next game.”
Good idea. Still one match to go in the group phase. Let’s see who will be able to get over his stubbornness and “move on”.