The Umpire is Always Right – Even When He is Wrong

Last night after a thrilling final between India and Australia the 36th edition of the Champions Trophy came to a very unsatisfactory close.

India playing in their first final at a major tournament in 36 years took the game to the World Champions Australia. It was hard to believe that this was the same India side that had been beaten the day before 4-2 by the Australians. India’s defence was rock solid with PR Shreejesh in goal making some outstanding saves to prevent Australia opening the scoring. Harmanpreet, voted the Young Player of the Tournament was outstanding as was VR Raghunath. India’s forwards may have been unable to broach the Australian defence but it wasn’t through lack of effort and their defence work was superb.

Australia too should take some credit, as when ill-discipline saw them reduced to nine men, and playing the last ten minutes of the match with ten men, they too dug deep to hold the Indians at bay.

Sadly with no goals in normal time the game went to a shoot out, and this was where what should have been a memorable game will now be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Australia’s second attempt in the shoot out saw Daniel Beale’s effort saved by Shreejesh but unfortunately the ball momentarily was stuck under the ‘keeper’s pad, he then raised himself up and sat with the ball between his legs. With only eight seconds to score that second wasted was crucial. Australia referred the foul to the video umpire who ordered a re-take. India’s coach Roelant Oltmans was furious. Beale scored at the second time of asking. SV Sunil missed for India making it 2-0 to Australia, with SK Uthapppa having missed his first attempt. Mitton missed Australia’s third attempt and Harmanpreet scored India’s 2-1. Simon Orchard converted Australia’s fourth attempt, Surender Kumar missed and Australia celebrated a victory, that even they will feel was fortunate.

Sadly, as soon as Surender missed the Indian coach left the field went up into the main stand to collect the required money from a Hockey India official and lodged a protest over the video referral. As a result the trophy and the medals were not presented post game and the fans had to leave the stadium with no conclusion to the tournament.

It was a very sad day for Hockey and a dreadful way to end such a great tournament. It was incredibly sad to see these young Indian players who had done so well, and done what no Indian team before them had achieved, make a Champions Trophy final robbed of their moment on the podium.

Hockey India were within their rights to lodge a protest but this is where Hockey must change its rules and regulations as it made a mockery of the showpiece game. Had the referral happened in normal time and a goal been scored, the goal would have stood and the game would have gone on and the teams would have accepted it. They may not have been happy, but they would have accepted it. The same situation should apply in a shoot out.

The umpire’s decision should be final, and when the whistle blows that is the end of the game. Umpires performances can always be reviewed and mistakes pointed out, but a process whereby the presentation ceremony does not happen at a showcase game is not good for the game, the teams or the players.

Sport has been littered with results where an official has made a mistake, but the result has remained. It is crucial that right or wrong the Umpire/referee’s decision is final.

Winning has become everything in modern sport. Careers of coaches depend on results, but the game must always be bigger than individual games and players.

This was a very sad way for the tournament to end and hopefully Hockey’s powers that be will ensure that we do not see the like again.

The Umpire is Always Right – Even When He is Wrong
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