Archive for June, 2010

There were some interesting Items for discussion on the Agenda for the Annual General Meeting of the International FA Board in London in February 2004.

First of all it was a special meeting of the IFAB, attended for the first time by the full FIFA Executive Committee in recognition of the FIFA Centenary and also in recognition that the modern game has its roots in England.

The Football Association was the first association to be formed in 1863, followed by the Scottish FA in 1873, the Football Association of Wales in 1876 and the Irish Football Association in 1880.

They met as the International FA Board, in 1886 to draw up the Laws which would apply to all football.

FIFA, which was founded in 1904, joined the Board in 1913.

The IFAB is the world’s oldest international football body and still acts as a highly effective guardian of the Laws of the Game.

Note that football is governed by the Laws of the Game and not rules – a throwback to the early days of the game.

But back to the meeting in 2004.

One Item for Discussion to be considered was Radio Communication Systems and FIFA reported favourably on the system which had been used in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2003. The Scottish FA also reported that it a communications system had been successfully used in the Scottish Premier League.

The Board ‘recognised that this technology could make a positive contribution to match control but it was also recognised that such a system must only be used for communication between the match officials and must not be used for broadcasting purposes’

No live coverage of the referees comments, such as we hear in rugby, was to be allowed.

We are used to seeing refereeing teams wired up for matches in leagues and competitions all over the world but it was only in 2004 that this received full approval from the IFAB.

Interestingly, it is not possible to use this equipment in some countries, such as Japan, because of national legal restrictions on the use of short wave radio frequencies.

Another item on the Agenda, raised by the Football Association, was whether the use of electronic advertising boards around the field was too distracting for players and officials. The matter was referred to a sub-committee to investigate but it correctly decided that the type of board used for advertising was not a part of the Laws of the Game and was therefore out of the remit of the IFAB.

So today we accept the referee communication system as the norm and the electronic advertising boards are also a normal part of top level football.

With their ability to be programmed to show a large number of adverts throughout the match, they are also highly lucrative.

Distracting? Hardly in the same league as vuvuzelas!

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No place for novices

We are now in to the knock out stages of the 2020 FIFA World Cup and things are different from what happened in the past two weeks.

All teams try to avoid losing the opening match but the third group match can be exciting and mean something, like the matches between USA and Algeria and England and Slovenia which determined the result of Group C or it can be a boring 90 minutes of tantrums and poor football such as we saw between Brazil and Portugal and the no contact latter stages between Spain and Chile.

Now it is sudden death and things will change.

What will happen between old enemies Germany and England?

 Who knows, but it will be highly competitive with both teams going for the victory which will avoid a penalty shoot out.

For the referees appointed to these matches, these are major tests.

One wrong decision, one bad signal from an assistant referee, can have a major influence on the tournament and also have a major influence on the progress of the referee trios.

The matches in the Round of 16 are no place for novices who have never had to perform in the white hot heat of top matches in different confederations.

That is why FIFA will only appoint experienced referees who have been over the course.

The referees for the next four matches in Round 2 are from Uruguay, Germany, Hungary and Italy.

The tournament is beginning to hot up!

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Football technology

There will always be debate about the use of technology in football.

The use of video replays is frequently discussed and more of this in a later article.

Technology, however, plays a very important role in many aspects of the game apart from video replays.

adidas, for example, produces a new ball for every World Cup tournament.

The Jabulani , which means to celebrate in Zulu, is the ball for 2010 and in Germany 2006 it was the Teamgeist, team spirit.

Each ball is the result of a tremendous amount of research and development by adidas, FIFA’s oldest partner.

Normally a football will have 32 hexagonal panels but the Teamgeist had only 14 and the Jabulani has only 8.

The shape of the Jabulani is said to be the nearest a ball has come to being a perfect sphere because of the manufacturing process and the grip and groove surface is supposed to help goalkeepers because it has a near perfect flight.

Without going into too much detail the general view of the ball has not been that it is light and rises very quickly. We have had a shortage of goals from long distance and the coaches and players blame the ball.

Fabio Capello and Diego Maradona have both spoken out against the ball saying it is the worst ball ever in a World Cup

The World Cup ball is always criticized but the Jabulani seems to have attracted more criticism than most.

It is being strongly marketed worldwide by adidas, however, and I am sure will turn into a very substantial earner for the company.

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The surprises continue

The World Cup theatre continues to surprise.

How many experts would have thought Italy would gain fewer points than New Zealand?

How many would have thought that at the end of the Group Stage that Ghana would be the only African team left in the last 16?

What about the performances of main Asian hopes, South Korea, Japan and Australia?

Two qualified and the other came close but their performances were not predicted by the media in their pre-tournament analyses.

North Korea, the other Asian team, were in an almost impossibly difficult group facing the skills and flair of Brazil and Portugal but they did put on an unexpected show against Brazil, losing only 2-1.

England and Germany qualified in their final matches but only just while under major pressure to fashion good results.

Whenever you are able to accurately predict what is going to happen in football we lose its universal appeal.

Football must always be unpredictable,

For the good of the game!

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Tomatoes or kiwi fruits?

You can never predict what will happen in a World Cup and it is great for football that the lesser favourites have delivered the goods in South Africa.

Who would have bet against New Zealand finishing above World Champions Italy in the Group Stages?

If the Italians go home to be pelted by tomatoes, as happened in 1966, will the Kiwis be welcomed by Kiwi fruits in recognition of their achievements?

Maybe New Zealand wine would be more acceptable!

The boost to football in New Zealand will be massive. Of course the main sports are the two rugby codes and cricket but what an exposure football has had in the last few weeks. This will have a long lasting effect on the development of the game in the country.

More money will of course be available but the profile of football has been raised so much. More young players will want to play football and the future is promising for the game in New Zealand

Similarly in Australia the failure to qualify for the next stage of the competition has been eased by the fact that it was a close run thing and Australia only failed to qualify on goal difference behind Germany and Serbia.

Japan were the fourth favourites behind Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon but a final match 3-1 victory over Denmark sealed their place in the next round.

This is a tremendous result for Asia following the success of South Korea in qualifying from Group E where they overcame the much favoured Cameroon and Denmark.

The hosts, South Africa, can also be proud of their performance, finishing just behind Mexico on goal difference and finishing above 1998 World Cup winners France.

You can never predict what will happen in a World Cup.

Long may that unpredictability continue!

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Football – the ultimate theatre

‘All the World Cup’s a stage,
And all the men merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts’

As William Shakespeare roughly wrote in the play ‘As You Like It’

Football is the ultimate theatre.

It is a unique mixture of all human emotions

We saw this yesterday in South Africa.

The joy of the American team as Landon Donovan scored the injury time goal which took them to the top on the section and a place in the last sixteen.

The despair of the disallowed goal against Slovenia was forgotten the moment the ball hit the back of the net. Former President Bill Clinton enjoyed the moment at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The despair in turn was now felt by Slovenia. Fate had played a cruel trick.

Only desperate tackling by the England defence a few moments before the American goal was scored a few hundred mile away had prevented Slovenia winning the section. Their dreams were shattered in a few short minutes.

The emotion of England as they survived to move into the last sixteen was clear.

Their supporters celebrated the victory of a team they had derided two days earlier.

There was also the enthusiasm shown by the victors. And it was not only the winners who were victors.

Ghana, who had just lost to Germany, still qualified when Australia beat Serbia. They celebrated with a lap of honour as if they had won the tournament.

They are now the last African team in the tournament.

There was also the pride of the Australian team from a country where football is the fourth most popular sport. They recovered from a heavy defeat in the opening match to draw with Ghana, after having had a player sent off, and then beat Serbia to miss out on a last sixteen place only on goal difference.

The skill of the players was also shown. The stunning left-foot strike in the second half by Mesut Ozil, the 21-year-old Werder Bremen midfielder won the match for Germany and took them to a match on Sunday with England.

The audience were also part of the performances – the vuvuzelas, the bands, the singing and the chants.

Yes, football is the ultimate theatre and the great thing is that we will have another four performances of the show today with different actors from Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Slovakia, Paraguay, Denmark and New Zealand.

Let the next performance begin!

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Crunch time for referees too

It’s Mexican referees to the fore on Friday for two of the top matches. Benito Archundia takes charge of the Brazil v Portugal match that closes Group G in Durban while his compatriot Marco Rodriguez will officiate Spain against Chile in Pretoria on the same day.

These seem sensible appointments by FIFA. Mexican referees are well used to top level highly emotional matches and all four teams have a Latin background.

Howard Webb of England will take control of defending champion Italy against Slovakia in Group F at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park on Thursday and again it is sensible to appoint a very experienced European official for this crunch match between two UEFA teams.

Japan’s Yuichi Nishimura has been awarded his third World Cup match with Group F leader Paraguay against New Zealand at Polokwane the same day. This is also a sound appointment. Nishimura has performed well in his two matches so far and appointing an Asian referee to this match between a team from Oceania and one from South America makes sense.

The group stages are nearing completion and the top teams are emerging. In the same way, the top referees are emerging.

The next considerations for FIFA will be which referees to be kept in their Pretoria Headquarters and which referees will be released.

This is not a straightforward decision since not only must the referee’s performance so far in the tournament be taken into consideration but also the success or otherwise of the referees’ national teams.

So all four referees mentioned above will be looking at the results of their countries with mixed feelings, as will other referees such as Roberto Rosetti from Italy, Wolfgang Stark from Germany. Alberto Undiano from Spain, Carlos Simon from Brazil and Hector Baldassi from Argentina.

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Differing fortunes for Asian referees

The appointments of referees to matches can always throw up the unexpected. A match which on paper looks easy can turn out to be very difficult and vice versa.

The three AFC referees experienced differing fortunes in their matches..

One of the most difficult assignments was handed to Khalil Al Ghamdi of Saudi Arabia when he was selected to referee the match between Chile and Switzerland.

This was always going to be a very difficult match because of the playing styles of the teams and what was at stake.

The match was fiercely contested in the middle of the field by a very determined Chile and by a very physical Switzerland. There were numerous fouls and so there were numerous whistles by the referee.

It was one of those matches when the discipline, or rather indiscipline, of the players meant the game was never going to flow. It was stop – start for almost the whole 90 minutes and the referee was in a no win situation.

Yuichi Nishimura, of Japan, had an easier appointment in the match between Spain and Honduras.

Spain wanted to win and Honduras wanted to keep the score respectable. There was little or no physical contact throughout the entire match and Yuichi Nishimura strolled through it with clear signals and accurate decisions.

Ravshan Irmatov refereed the final match in Group B between Argentina and Greece.  He had an excellent performance in his third match so far in World Cup 2010.

Early in the match he refused to be taken in by the extravagant claims for fouls by both teams and after the teams realised this they decided to get on with the game.

Khalil Al Ghamdi would have preferred a more straight forward match and will be disappointed but Yuichi Nishimura and Ravshan Irmatov will be very satisfied with their performances so far.

Irmatov has already refereed three matches and Nishimura will referee his third when he takes charge of the important Group F match between Paraguay and New Zealand.

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Cheats are ruining the game

When will players realise that they have responsibilities?

In the last two days we have seen the most blatant attempts by some players to have opponents sent off. Sadly the attempts were mostly successful.

Simulation to gain a penalty kick is bad enough but play acting and cheating to have an opponent sent off is totally unacceptable.

On Sunday Brazilian forward Kaka was sent off after Ivory Coast forward Kader Keita ran into his back and then fell to the ground clutching his face.

The referee who could not have seen the incident gave Kaka a yellow card, his second of the match, and he was sent off.

Yesterday we had the delayed reaction concussion from Honduran Emilioi Izaguirre. Spanish forward, David Villa stupidly slapped Izaguirre but the Honduran took 6 seconds before clutching his face, which was not struck, and throwing himself to the ground.

What was a world class player like Villa thinking about and how ridiculous did Izaguirre look?

The match between Switzerland and Chile also had a red card which changed the match.

The Swiss player Behrami swung his arm into the face of Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal on the touchline. It was stupid and he deserved to be sent off for violent conduct.

Vidal’s response, however, was excessive. He wanted to maximise the chance of having an opponent sent off and lay down clutching his face.

It annoys me when referees are criticised for giving what they believe to be correct and honest decisions when the aim of some players is only to cheat and deceive.

These players do not only cheat the referee.

They cheat the World Cup and the whole of football.

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Pressure on referees increases

As everyone expected, the pressure is increasing on the referees.

There have been some questionable decisions in recent matches and as the group stage of the tournament gets toward the important crunch matches the controversies will increase.

Today FIFA held a media briefing when José-Maria Garcia Aranda, the Manager of the FIFA World Cup referees, faced questions from the world’s journalists.

FIFA Had already stated that it would not comment on individual decisions or referees but among the questions which the journalists probably would have liked to be answered might be:

USA v Slovenia

Why was the late American goal by Maurice Edu chalked off by referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali?

Brazil v Ivory Coast

Did French referee Stephane Lannoy allow too much physical play?

Should Brazil’s second goal have been disallowed for handball?

Did the referee see the incident which resulted in Kaka’s second yellow card?

Italy v New Zealand

Was the referee taken in by the theatrics of the Italian players?

Was the penalty kick correct and if it was can we expect the same standard to apply to all holding inside the penalty area?

Australian Red Cards

Did Tim Cahill’s tackle deserve a red card?

Did Harry Kewell deliberately handle the ball on the goal line?

Germany v Serbia

Was the Spanish referee Alberto Undiano, correct to issue nine yellow cards and to send off Miroslav Klose?

Chile v Switzerland

Did Saudi referee  Khamil Al Ghamdi need to issue nine yellow cards and one red during the match?

José-Maria Garcia Aranda however has put these questions out of bounds and I think he is absolutely correct to do so.

To publically question or to criticise the team would be totally wrong and Garcia Aranda, as the manager of the team, must avoid catering to the voracious demands of the media to the detriment of his referees.  

As I said in an earlier article, the referees, the Referees Committee and their technical support are part of a team. Like all the teams taking part there must be full public support for the team members by the manager.

Criticism should, and will, be done in private

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