Goal-line technology moves ever closer, while Green Army says goodbye amid tragedy

Controversial goal-line calls, some misbehaving fans, singing-dancing supporters, penalty kicks, tiki-taka soccer by the Spanish and solid performances by the Germans.

Just another major tournament, really.

With Euro 2012 now reaching the semifinal stages in Poland and Ukraine, and concluding with the final on Sunday, the thus-far entertaining event provided more talking points in the past week.

One hot topic was the subject of goal-line technology, and its introduction looks even more inevitable following last Tuesday’s England-Ukraine game.

Replays showed that a shot by Ukraine’s Marko Devic fully crossed the England line. However, the additional assistant referee, standing just yards from the incident, didn’t spot it.

Sepp Blatter, president of world governing body FIFA, then took to his Twitter account to proclaim, “After last night’s match #GLT [goal-line technology] is no longer an alternative but a necessity.”

As we reported last month, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which determines the laws of the sport, will decide whether to approve goal-line technology from among two finalists at a special meeting in Zurich on July 5.

The two, which have both been tested recently during various games, are Hawk-Eye and GoalRef.

Sony’s Hawk-Eye is a camera-based, ball-tracking system and is one many sports fans will already be familiar with, as it is successfully used in tennis and cricket. GoalRef uses a magnetic field with a special ball.

Both systems send a signal within a second of the ball crossing the line to the referee, who then has the power to make the final call.

FIFA has four members on the board of IFAB, with the others provided by the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Changes to the laws of the game must be agreed by at least six of the eight delegates.

If approved, t is pretty certain that Major League Soccer and the English Premier League will put the technology to use as soon as it is ready to use.

Following reports of racial abuse at various games during the first week of Euro 2012, not to mention the attacking of stewards in a stadium walkway by Russian fans after their matchup with the Czech Republic, and clashes between Russian and Polish fans before their tense encounter which resulted in more than 50 arrests, it was refreshing to see the good side of soccer support when Spain took on Ireland.

While many on the Emerald Isle continue this week to mull over the state of Irish soccer following the country’s dismal performance at the championships (soundly beaten by Croatia, Spain and Italy), their fans have been lauded for their support during their sojourn to Poznan and Gdansk.

The 25,000-plus strong Green Army, when 4-0 down against the Spanish, sang its regular rendition of folk ballad, “The Fields of Athenry,” even catching the attention of “Sports Illustrated,” which highlighted it as a feature of futbol support that is sadly lacking in the NFL.

It was a passionate display to a worldwide audience that the game should be enjoyed, no matter the result, as you don’t know whether it will be the last one you ever witness. Days later, 21-year-old Irish soccer fan James Nolan’s body was found after drowning in the River Brda in northwest Poland.

In Saturday’s MLS game between LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps, Irish captain Robbie Keane bagged the second goal in a 3-0 win.

After scoring, he ran to the sideline to grab a jersey with “RIP James Nolan” printed on the back and displayed it for all to see.

“I called his father today to send my condolences, send my thoughts to him and his family,” said Keane after the game. “Irish people are very close and stick to each other through good times and bad times.”

The tournament resumes today and sees world champions and Euro holders Spain take on Iberian rivals Portugal in the first semifinal. Then on Thursday, Germany will take on Italy, conquerors of England on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.

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