For all the controversy of referees that dogged the Socceroos in the last two World Cup and claims of conspiracy against smaller football nations like Australia, people forget the one decision that came our way.
Four years ago against Japan, Cahill was sent in and promptly got yellow carded in the 69th minute for a clumsy challenge. However, he scored the equaliser and sent Australia into ecstasy. Then minutes later Cahill made a crude challenge inside the penalty box against Yūichi Komano.
The referee waved play on when it was a clearly penalty and Tim Cahill should have been sent off. In fact the FIFA refereeing committee established that it was the only mistake the referee made in that match (they believed the Japanese goal was fair because they believed Craig Moore pushed Takohara into Schwarzer and therefore should have been a penalty if the goal didn’t go in. Even though I disagree with that interpretation, FIFA rubber stamped that goal).
If the referee made the right decision, Cahill, instead of becoming the golden boy of the Socceroos and starring in Weet-Bix and Sony ads, would have became the villain of the Socceroos, getting sent off and leaving our World Cup dreams in tatters. The famous second goal from Cahill would have never have happened and chances are we would have lost that match 2-1 and would’ve been eliminated in the group stages with only a solitary point, with Cahill being the scapegoat.
That match surely demonstrates the fine line between hero and villain and it’s hard to imagine where the current status of football in Australia would have been if things went differently. The Socceroos brand would have been worth less, Cahill wouldn’t be our golden boy, Guus Hiddink wouldn’t have been considered our saviour and miracle worker, etc.
If we look further back to the famous Uruguay qualifiers, in the away leg, Schwarzer admitted to fouling Recoba in the box that would have left Australia 2-0 down and would have left a mountain of work for the Socceroos in the return leg.
So despite claims of conspiracy against Australia, the defining moments of Australian football were assisted by referee errors. Remember that when we criticise the performances of the referees and realise that sometimes it goes our way, sometimes it doesn’t.