It has long been a matter of mystery to me the way footballers, football managers and football supporters vehemently complain when they perceive they have suffered a bad decision from the referee or other match officials, but on the other hand seem quite contented when they are the beneficiaries of the very same thing and it's the opposing team that comes off poked in the eye, so to speak. I have commented on this more than once in passing, and have even gone so far as to suggest that it reflects the weak side of the human character.
I now realize, however, that in that judgement I may have been too hasty. From this document [pdf] - FIFA's Laws of the Game (under 'Decisions of the referee') - I have it that:
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.
You may have spotted the source of the problem right there. (1) The decisions of the referee are final; but (2) a decision of the referee may sometimes be 'incorrect' and if he realizes this in time he may change his mind. So, we have two different sources of authority regarding the status of any given decision: one is the referee's judgement, and the other an independent criterion of correctness (in light of which the referee can realize he or she initially gave the wrong call).
But how, you may ask, does this help to clear up the mystery? Here I have had help from some remarks of Steven Gerrard's regarding a Liverpool goal against Everton on Sunday that was disallowed by an assistant referee's flag for offside. Gerrard said:
There is no offside and it's difficult for me to explain it. The only person who can explain it is the linesman. I asked him after the game if it was offside and he said: 'I think so.' That's not good enough. If every decision in this league is based on 'we think so', then we're in trouble.
Gerrard is not only a great footballer, as I've long known, he has philosophical depth. In coming to their decisions, the refereeing officials must not just think so, they must give expression to the very reality of what happened. This clears up the problem I've been having. When players, managers and supporters accept their good fortune from those officiating they are going with the finality of the referee's decision; and when they complain about their bad fortune they are going with naked reality just as it is and unthought by anybody. It's entirely consistent of them. (For the FIFA link thanks: JP-B.)