July 3, 2010
So you’re in the last minute of extra time, a few seconds away from a penalty shoot-out and the opportunity to put your country into the World Cup Semi Final. You’re defending a set piece, your keeper is beaten and the ball is coming at your head. Do you try and head it, knowing you may miss it and your team are out?
Or do you put your hands up and punch it out the goal, knowing you will inevitably sent off, but your keeper has a chance with the penalty? This is the very scenario which must have gone through Luis Saurez’s head last night. Or rather, it would have been if he’d had any chance to think about it.
Predictably, Suarez has been labelled a cheat, compared to both Maradona and Thierry Henry, and FIFA are discussing extending his ban to ensure he would miss the Final if Uruguay manage to get there. Is this justified? I’m not so sure.
Deliberate handball on the goal line carries a very severe punishment already. It leads to a penalty kick and a red card, unlike a handball further up the field. If the officials had seen Henry’s handball, he’d have just received a yellow card. Same for Maradona, yet both of these incidents were just as game-changing as Suarez’s incident.
Of course, Ireland fans may view this very differently to me. Suarez stopped a certain goal through ill means, and although Ghana had an opportunity to punish him with the penalty, they did not. Indeed, I remember a similar incident in an Old Firm game a couple of years back, where Bougherra handled a Nakamura shot on the line and was dismissed, only for Scott McDonald to miss the penalty. I certainly understand the feeling of being “cheated”, but then I blamed McDonald for not scoring the penalty.
So being able to see both sides of the argument, where do I stand? Well, I think if FIFA are looking to clampdown on cheating, this is completely the wrong place to start. I’d start by sending Joan Capdevilla, the Spanish left back, back to Spain with his tail between his legs for his disgraceful piece of cheating against Portugal.
The game we love is suffering from a cancer of players diving, rolling around, attempting to con the referee and get players booked and sent off. Watch any match and you’ll see this is the case. I can almost guarantee that an incident of “gamesmanship” will occur in today’s match between Argentina and Germany. Now this is something for FIFA to tackle, much like it was something for UEFA to tackle last summer, but they lost their nerve and gave Eduardo (and every other diver, for that matter) a reprieve. Is football now a game where conning the referee is “clever” or is that an act of cheating that needs to be punished? If it’s the former, then the soul of the beautiful game is really in trouble.
Handball on the goal-line already has a harsh penalty written into the rules of the game, yet handball is not what is killing the game. Some would argue that it is too late to stop players diving, it is now “part of the game” and we should just accept it. I cannot and I will not, so for as long as I have to I will continue to highlight the impotence of the game’s governing bodies until they take action against those conning us all.
Time to pick your side, folks.
June 19, 2010
There haven’t been many bright spots for the average England football supporter, so allow me to lighten the mood with a joke.
Q. What’s Thierry Henry and Nelson Mandela got in common?
A. Robben Island.
Thank you, I’ll be here all week.
November 20, 2009
I had hoped I’d be able to discuss another topic in today’s blog, but the Ireland-France row seems to have taken another turn. I guess it’s only right for me to give my two penneth.
It would seem the Irish FA are not prepared to let the dust settle following Henry’s handball, and even the Irish government are getting involved in the argument. Now as much as I sympathise with them over the incident, and I agree that losing in that manner is a travesty, I think calling for a replay is somewhat ridiculous.
If FIFA were to agree to this request, the sport of football would be thrown into chaos, and that is something which cannot be allowed to happen. I also believe it is dangerous for politicians to start meddling in sport, which I’ll come on to later.
First thing for me to say here is I don’t blame the Irish FA for being angry. I can certainly understand them questioning the referee’s ability to officiate the game, but calling for a replay is taking things too far. And surely they know what the ramifications would be if their request is granted by FIFA. We’d have replays every week! Manchester United would never lose another game, as every time they do Fergie criticises the referee. Imagine if they had the power to call for a replay?
World football would go into meltdown if this precedent was set by FIFA, and it is naive in the extreme of the FAI to think FIFA will not consider the future if they agree to this request. And how many times has another nation been cheated out of a world cup, or European Championship spot? Indeed, England won the tournament in 1966 with a very fortuitous award from a certain Russian linesman. Then on the flip side, there was the ‘hand of God’ in 1986. If FIFA agree to the replay, how far back do we go? Do we just think of games this season, or do we look to replay every game since 1865? And what happens if the incident occurs in a match that is won 5-0? Does the right to request replays still stand? I appreciate I’m being facetious here, but quite frankly, I think the FAI are mentalists!
While the game is in the current state, the FAI should instead be taking this on the chin. Yes, call for increased technology, call for actions to be taken against the referee if they must, but the replay request MUST be denied. Incidentally, I thought the referee had a fantastic game, barring this one incident. The game was allowed to flow, he didn’t go overboard with yellow cards, and he saw through Anelka’s blatant attempt at diving. I think the real rage here should be towards the linesman, who had a clear view of Henry’s handball as well as the fact there were two French players offside when the ball was played.
I also can’t let the fact the Irish government joined in the call for a replay slide. As much as I can understand the frustration they may have felt as fans, the cynic in me believes there is only one true motivation for them adding their voice to the request: money. I truly believe that government should stay out of sport unless they are considering supporter well-being. This well-being can be either physical safety or financial well-being, ensuring sport remains affordable. However, this does not include heartbreak, like the way many irish fans will be feeling now.
It’s no coincidence that the Irish government would call for a replay in a time the world is in recession. After all, world cup qualification offers economies all over the world a boost, but when your nation is involved the boost is substantial. I really belive the Irish government have opened themselves up to criticism with this comment.
However, the French government commenting is more favourable. Indeed, French MP Christine Lagarde has offered her support to the replay call, which is commendable. Indeed, it would appear that 80% of the French population support the replay request. If the French Federation feel similar, the replay is feasible, but the approval will not come from FIFA themselves.
Indeed, I fully expect the French to move on and look forward to the World Cup. I’m sad to say this, but I hope the Irish can too.