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Turning Point of The Game Impact vs Whitecaps : To PK or not to PK

Amidst the 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, no one can ignore the initial penalty call for the Montreal Impact by referee Jorge Gonzalez. What is even more confusing and dramatic was how and why the penalty call was recalled a few minutes later.

Raphael Larocque-Cyr / 2013

Hassoun Camara's handball was flagrant and the penalty call for the Vancouver Whitecaps was not controversial at all. No one will nor should ever disagree about Jorge Gonzalez's call. He called it immediately, without hesitation and Kenny Miller took care of business.

Through a difficult first half for Les Bleus de Montreal, chances were scarce as Vancouver was very disciplined tactically and physically present. Off a corner kick clearance, Patrice Bernier goes for a gorgeous volley that was destined for goal.

Have a look at the action and look at the Jorge Gonzalez's excellent positioning as he follows the ball. He calls for penalty kick, the Whitecaps make sure to crowd him and challenge that call. After consulting with the 4th referee and the linesman, the penalty is recalled.


As per statement released by the referees,  after the game

Mr. Gonzalez decided, based on input from the entire referee crew, that there was not an intentional handling of the ball on this play. The referee crew determined that the ball struck the Vancouver player's chest/shoulder area of the body with no intent to play the ball with his hand.


Marco Schallibaum

Patrice Bernier

[about the penalty being recalled]

I have never seen such a call since Zidane's headbutt [...] it's not the NFL or the NHL in which you can challenge [a call] . Something was done but I am not here to judge.

Nigel Reo-Cooker

[about the penalty being recalled]

I didnt believe it was a penalty and the ref had all the rights to change his decision.

[about the 4th referee influence on the main referee]

it s the first time I've seen this in Football. It's something that does not happen in Europe. Experiencing that in LA didnt really make it so surprising that the referee reversed his decision today.

What does FIFA say

In the interpretation section of the Laws of The Game , among administrative and substitution duties, the fourth official also

He [the fourth official] ] assists the referee to control the match in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The referee, however, retains the authority to decide on all points connected with play.

What is the Debate

On the Vancouver side, the ball was not deflected away from the goal with what is deemed to be a handball as per FIFA Rules. The highest FIFA authority on the pitch would be Jorge Gonzalez, who made the immediate penalty kick call.

His call was as instanteneous as the call for the Whitecaps when Hassoun Camara touched the ball. What made him change his call?

(*) The Linesman? He went directly to his assigned spot, by the line, preparing a for penalty kick to be taken.

(*) The 4th referee? It seems like it was the 4th referee( Quebec-native) who influenced the call.

It was confirmed that the replay of the handball was not shown on the Stade Saputo big screen. So the video conspiracy theory is off the shelf. I was sucked in to watch the TV monitors in the press box to look at the replay and never looked at the Jumbotron at the stadium: I will never know.

Now as per FIFA rules, the referee can get assistance from all of the other referees but '' retains the authority '' to make the final decision.

It comes up  to a '' legal vs legitimate '' debate as the 4th referee is not in the best position to see the action, especially not from 40-50 meters away. No matter how good is his angle of view, the distance and the sheer number of players in the box would put doubts on any input he might have.

You could say that Montreal had 50+ minutes to tie the game and if it was not for a hot David Ousted, the game story might have changed. But extrapolating with non-statistical data  will only give you what-ifs and metaphysical debates with no end.

Would have Bernier scored that penalty kick? Most probably as he is perfect in MLS but making such a big decision to overturn a PK call is a dangerous precedence when you rely on the 4th referee.

It is legal , as per FIFA rules but was it legitimate?

Permit me to say that the penalty recall was a horrible mistake if it was based on the referee with the least authority on the pitch as he is not on the pitch, especially when he makes a call from 40-50+ meters away.