censorship, Fearless Critic, World Cup

More on FIFA’s treatment of the USA’s disallowed goal at the World Cup

In response to yesterday’s post about censorship on the FIFA.com “Have Your Say” discussion board after the USA’s third goal against Slovenia—which was controversially nullified by referee Koman Coulibaly for reasons that remain unclear—commenter bdr on my blog has observed that FIFA is also now widely suppressing video of the disallowed goal under the guise of copyright enforcement (although the video is still easy to find on youtube). Any readers with direct evidence of this copyright enforcement effort, please chime in. Commenter Sam, meanwhile, points out that the disallowed goal is not even included in FIFA’s own highlight reel of the match (and I have confirmed this): “their plan is to just act like it never happened.”

About five hours after the end of yesterday’s match, FIFA.com, perhaps in response to pressure online, began allowing a limited number of comments onto the “Have Your Say” discussion board that referenced the disallowed goal. The first such comment allowed was from Deutschnuk, on June 18 at 21:49. In the 24 hours or so since then, by my count, seven other comments, not including replies, have been posted that are critical of the call (by sp0rtsfan8, bknutz, T-Rixx, stinson87, LAUREN2010, MarcS420, and jacob163).

To counter these, FIFA.com has also posted (as of this writing) seven comments arguing that the call was justified, often by suggesting that the USA side was playing rough (from algeroid7, Stipe24, Brisaca, roedl22, j0000nz, and two from SVNFTW). One comment has also been posted that discusses the call but considers both sides. From reading the board, in other words, you’d assume that soccer fans were more or less split on the question of whether Coulibaly made a bad call.

The reason that this distribution seems utterly unrelated to the distribution of opinion amongst soccer fans, bloggers, and commentators across the rest of cyberspace is that there still seems to be massive comment suppression happening on the “Have Your Say” board.

The primary evidence for this suppression is that the volume of comments does not appear to be returning to anywhere near the normal volume on other boards (which, it bears mention, are also probably subject to some censorship as well). If things have improved since the first five hours after the match (during which only 37 comments in total were approved), it’s only slightly: only 77 total comments have been approved in the 24 hours after the game, whereas 137 comments were approved in that same time span for the lower-profile Algeria-Slovenia match.

And of the comments that have been approved by FIFA.com since the match’s end, only 31 have come from Americans—that’s an average of less than one per hour. By comparison, 31 comments by Americans were posted in the first half-hour after the conclusion of the USA’s 1-1 tie against England.

In spite of what seems to be a slight policy shift, none of the undoubtedly numerous deleted comments that referenced the call in the first five hours after the match ended have been revived and posted. And there are many areas of discussion that still seem taboo, so we have no idea how many comments are still being deleted. As of this writing, for instance, no comment has been approved that mentions the referee by name, even as FIFA itself prepares to comment publicly on his performance on Monday.

And no comment has been approved that mentions (as do most newspaper articles about the match) the numerous soccer analysts and experts that have criticized the call, including Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas of ESPN (who called Coulibaly’s nullification “a disgrace”); CNN/SI’s Peter King (“Americans, and the world, should be outraged at FIFA”); the New York Times’ Jeff Klein (“Horrible performance from the Malian referee, who wrongly nullified what would have been the winning US goal!”); and even the British paper, the Guardian (“what looked like a perfectly good late winner was ruled out”), whose home team stood to benefit from the call.

Some other interesting FIFA-censorship-related tidbits have also been floating around, such as the organization’s decision to seize and destroy a Liverpool FC banner containing the words “Save Liverpool FC Hicks & Gillett Out,” according to Richard Buxton of Click Liverpool, because it “contravened their rules against obscene or vulgar images being displayed at games.” George Gillett and Tom Hicks are the unpopular American owners of the club.

Buxton also reports that FIFA “ejected 36 Holland fans from yesterday’s 2-0 win over Denmark for wearing mini-dresses designed by Dutch brewer Bavaria, citing ‘ambush marketing.’”

And here’s some interesting new wording from the capsule summary of the controversial match result on FIFA.com: “USA retrieved a 2-0 half-time deficit to earn a deserved draw with Group C rivals Slovenia.”

Emphasis added.


  1. KnoxvilleBuckeye

    There’s new new text on the article now to at the end…

    “The Americans might even have won the game only for referee Koman Coulibaly to rule out a goal from Maurice Edu, who volleyed home Donovan’s free-kick from the right. There was still time for Novakovic to threaten with a header at the other end but his effort was held comfortably by Howard.”

  2. Tom

    The link to “according to Richard Buxton of Click Liverpool” is a 404 — be interested to see if it’s really FIFA that censored that banner, if you have the correct link.

    Great coverage of this issue in general here.

  3. Jon O

    They like to think that decisions like these are good for the game and for fan discussion. They are, to an extent, when they’re close calls. My argument isn’t even for modern technology to be introduced, no line bleeps or action replays. Just having an official sitting behind the goal, with a flag, and a monitor, connected to a camera looking from above the goal area. He has seconds to lift his arm, flag, job done.

    You’ll notice with England’s disallowed goal today, the FIFA write up in the overview suggests the call was a close one. When in fact there was plenty of distance between ball and line. They make no other mention of it.

    FIFA’s argument for no technology was that it would be too expensive to introduce on a global scale. Forget that they’re making obscene profits in a billion dollar industry – FIFA = FAIL

  4. That’s some kind of dishonesty. I wonder why several decades ago football was more interesting to see.

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