IN the event of political interference, the French Football Federation can rely on Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) to defend it, according to Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president.
He went so far as to warn the French president to keep his nose out of football matters or the French team could be expelled from international football.
Is there no limit to Blatter’s arrogance? Most governments support sport with millions of taxpayers’ money, so the French president has every right to demand accountability. The president of the French Football Federation, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, resigned in the wake of France’s pathetic showing in the World Cup.
The team, which was splintered by internal dissention, was a national embarrassment partly because of the way it qualified. A public opinion poll, commissioned by Le Monde in November 2009, found that 87.5% of French respondents believed Ireland, not France, should be going to the World Cup.
Some of the international media suggested Irish people were delighted Thierry Henry was shunned at the finals, but I would question whether Irish followers really blamed him. The Irish players certainly did not. If Ireland had scored in similar circumstances, people would probably have justified accepting the situation as compensation for previous occasions on which we felt we were robbed.
At the end of the second play-off against France, Henry admitted to Richard Dunne that he had handled the ball before crossing it for France’s goal. Maybe Henry should have run to the referee immediately and admitted he had handled the ball, but can anyone name any player who ever did that in a World Cup game?
Henry did try to contact Sepp Blatter after the game. “I called Thierry because he tried to get in touch with me,” Blatter told L’Equipe newspaper. “He was honest by admitting that he did use his hand, but it wasn’t his responsibility to tell the referee.
“The referee should have taken the time to reflect rather than immediately awarding the goal,” Blatter said. “When I was a centre forward in my junior team, I definitely gained an advantage by pulling a defender’s jersey in order to score a goal. And I didn’t go and see the referee to tell him about it.”
It is absurd to expect referees, or assistant referees on the sidelines, to spot every infringement. This is why they should have modern technology to minimise mistakes.
Irish officials owed it to the Irish players to appeal for fair play. In 2006, FIFA ordered that a World Cup qualification play-off game between Uzbekistan and Bahrain be replayed. In the original game Uzbekistan was awarded a penalty while leading 1-0. The penalty was scored, but the Japanese referee disallowed the goal and awarded a free out instead because an Uzbek players had encroached on the penalty area before the kick was taken. The penalty should have been retaken, but the referee got it wrong, so FIFA ordered that the match be replayed.
Blatter, who is from Switzerland, has been FIFA president since 1998 and has been a controversial figure throughout his tenure. At different times he has shot his mouth off like an immature schoolboy blaming the referee.
In 2006, a referee gave 16 yellow cards and four red cards to players in a game between Holland and Portugal. Blatter said the referee should have given himself a yellow card for his poor performance, but he later apologised for this outburst. Maybe this was his sense of humour, but he’s a bad joke himself.
Irish officials did not try to have France expelled from the World Cup. Instead they suggested — in the spirit of fair play — that the Irish team should be added. Blatter publicly ridiculed the request, much to the embarrassment of other FIFA officials. As a result he had to apologise.
“I regret what I created by what I said and I’m sorry about the headlines,” Blatter announced. “The Irish were very sporting people when they came to see us at FIFA. I’m very sorry about that.”
Last March Blatter persuaded the International Football Association board to rule out referees using technology. But last Sunday the officials did not give England a goal against Germany for Frank Lampard’s shot after it crossed the goal line having hit the crossbar. Officials in another game that evening failed to realise that the scorer of Argentina’s first goal against Mexico was clearly offside.
Looking at either video would not have taken an official two seconds to realise England had scored or that Argentina’s goal should not have been allowed. Blatter apologised for both mistakes.
“Personally,” he said, “I deplore it when you see evident referees’ mistakes, but it is not the end of the competition, or the end of football. This can happen. I have spoken to the two federations directly concerned by the referees’ mistake. I have expressed to them apologies and I understand that they are not happy.”
It was fitting that he apologised. He was primarily at fault because he blocked the introduction of technology to help the referees. It is reprehensible, however, that he would again seek to shift the blame onto the referees for his own blinding incompetence. FIFA announced that it has dropped the two referees involved in Sunday’s games — Roberto Rosetti of Italy and Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay — from any further games in the World Cup. This is a naked attempt to use them as scapegoats for the bungling ineptitude of Blatter and FIFA itself.
Fair play. Get real. Blatter and his lackeys are a disgrace.
THE Germans may have felt a certain historical symmetry in the failure to award England the goal last Sunday because officials gave an extremely dubious goal to England in comparatively similar circumstances in the World Cup final against West Germany in 1966. Television technology was not as sophisticated then, and nobody could show that the entire ball was over the line in 1966.
With the more sophisticated technology last Sunday there was no doubt, but the referees were not allowed to use that technology. They are expected to referee games largely with 19th century equipment, while Blatter and his lackeys judge and scapegoat them with the benefit of the most up-to-date technology.
“It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to reopen the file on goal-line technology,” Blatter admitted this week. He was responsible for that nonsense last March, but is still suggesting that any changes should be confined to methods of assessing whether the ball has actually crossed the goal line.
He is trying to exclude technology that would expose foul play in scoring any goals. He is apparently content to blame the referee for such mistakes.
“We will come out with a new model in November on how to improve high-level referees,” he added. “Something has to be changed.”
The first thing that needs to be changed is the clown who is running FIFA. Blatter should be retired. He is an international disgrace, an affront to the sense of fair play or true sportsmanship and a sorry excuse for an effective administrator.
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