Discussion on perceived bias necessary

I feel compelled to comment on the “unfortunate” job of refereeing during the Kenai-SoHi soccer game on April 14.

Although there are always calls that we might disagree with in sports, the repeated denial of penalties and injuries inflicted by SoHi against Kenai elevates the seriousness of this situation. These were not a question of degree; they were outright penalties that the ref chose not to assess against SoHi.

Let me say from the outset that I do not believe for one second that SoHi committed any of their actions on purpose. They played well and showed lots of spirit.

Aside from smaller, minor bad calls, there were two calls that incensed players, coaches and fans:

1) Roughing the keeper — SoHi’s player knocked the Kenai goalie down. Took him a long time to get up and recuperate. The ref didn’t even go over or ask how he was doing.

2) Tripping — As SoHi and Kenai players ran after the ball, SoHi tripped the Kenai runner; the referee gave SoHi a free kick and yellow-carded Kenai.

I left before the end of the game because it wasn’t fun to watch anymore.

Everyone on Kenai’s side was angry and frustrated. It had deteriorated into a mess of shaking heads and disbelief. Although it was a good competition, it seemed there was a bias against Kenai. They were being tripped and hurt clearly without the ref’s ability or desire to observe or take appropriate actions.

I have seen bad calls for many years in many sports, local and professional.

The NFL and other sports have policies in place to discuss, review and remove a bad call during a game. Soccer needs to emulate this in some way to restore credibility. When bad calls are made and players get hurt, it sends a message that players can get away with mistreatment, even if unintentional.

I have watched games where players were purposely cleating and elbowing other players. This seemed to be one coach’s strategy in comp soccer. This is not something anyone wants to see condoned, or even given the perception of indirectly condoning.

Regarding perceptions of impropriety, it also does not appear fair when a referee has a family member on one of the teams he is officiating. Judges recuse themselves when they know someone personally in a case. So should referees.

This is a small town, so it’s painfully difficult to criticize the actions of someone who has been here a while. But there is nothing personal here. The lack of attention and necessary action during this game seriously affected the morale of players, as well as the parents to support it.

Legendary sports commentator Frank Deford said on related issues of the appearance of bias and loss of credibility: “it’s not just a crime against the game, it’s a wound against the essence of the sport.”

I don’t have the solution, but maybe this can be a start to openly discussing how to prevent this from happening again.