Archive for July, 2010

Language matters

Following the establishment of the Football Association in 1863, the Scottish Football Association in 1873, the Football Association of Wales in 1876 and the Irish Football Association in 1880, The International FA Board was set up in 1886 to agree a common set of Laws at a time when there were some variations in the four countries.

Notice, incidentally, that football has Laws and not rules like all other sports.

The International FA Board is still a very important part of the football scene and continues to act responsibly and wisely as the guardian of the Laws of the Game.

FIFA was founded in 1904 in the Rue Saint Honoré, Paris. The seven founder members were all European since that was where football was developing at the time

       France – Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA)

       Belgium – Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports (UBSSA)

       Denmark – Dansk Boldspil Union (DBU)

       Netherlands – Nederlandsche Voetbal Bond (NVB)

       Spain – Madrid Football Club

       Sweden – Svenska Bollspells Förbundet (SBF)

       Switzerland – Association Suisse de Football (ASF)

The agreed official languages of FIFA therefore were the four main European languages – English, French, German and Spanish. Although the British Associations initially refused to join, FIFA accepted the existing Laws and the authority of the IFAB, with English as the definitive language for the Laws.

The four British associations joined FIFA in 1905 and FIFA eventually joined the IFAB in 1913, initially as a junior partner, but this of course has changed over the years.

I believe that, as we now enter the second decade of the 21st century, FIFA should consider increasing the number of official languages it uses.

Today German speakers are very limited but Arabic is spoken in many of FIFA’s member associations. Similarly, considering the size and population of China, Mandarin must be recognised as a major world language as should Russian.

An Arabic version of the FIFA website is now available and this is a big step forward however the inclusion of Mandarin and Russian this would extend the concept even further.

The time has now come for FIFA to recognise the main Asian languages as official FIFA languages. English will always remain the definitive language for the Laws of the Game but FIFA should widen its language base.

Europe, South America, Central America, Oceania and Africa are mostly covered by the present four official FIFA languages but Asia would greatly benefit from the addition of Arabic, Mandarin and Russian language versions of the Laws of the Game and new FIFA teaching materials to aid the development of football.

It was once ’For the Good of the Game,’now it is ’For the Game. For the World.’

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The art of cheating

Football has had many problems over the years and one of them has been cheating.

Possibly the most obvious example during the recent World Cup in South Africa has been, what in official parlance has been called ‘simulation.’ This means over-exaggerating a push or diving when no contact has been made – to make sure that a penalty is awarded or an opponent sent off.

There are other more serious examples of cheating in football such as the German match fixing scandal a few years ago and the Italian football scandal which resulted in Juventus being relegated and other Italian teams losing their places in the top European club competitions.

But cheating is not confined to football.

The Tour de France, which finishes in Paris tomorrow, is littered with examples of cheating through drug abuse.

 Tommy Simpson, the greatest British cyclist of his generation, died on the Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France in 1967 after allegedly taking performance enhancing drugs.

Lance Armstrong, a seven times winner of the Tour, is still under suspicion for taking drugs to ensure his success, particularly after the accusations by fellow American Floyd Landis who was himself thrown out of the Tour in 2006 for drug taking after an unbelievable recovery from a bad day in the Pyrenees.

Ben Jonson of Canada will forever be remembered, not as the winner of the 100 Metres Gold Medal in the Seoul Olympics of 1988, but as the athlete who took performance enhancing drugs,

You could add to the list of disgraced athletes Marylyn Jones of USA and Dwain Chambers of the United Kingdom and many others – too many others!

When an Olympic Champion stands on the podium, the first question many people ask is ‘did he take drugs?

But cheating in sport has wider implications.

In today’s Formula 1 German Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari won from team-mate Filipe Massa in second place, allegedly after Massa was given discrete instructions to allow his team mate to pass him and win the race.

The penalty kick must be awarded because the player is fouled.

The gold medal must be awarded to the best athlete.

The Grand Prix must be won on the track and not decided by instructions from the pit lane.

Cheating in sport devalues everyone!

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IFAB to continue extra assistant experiment

Probably the highest profile refereeing mistake in the FIFA World cup in South Africa was the failure of Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistant to award a goal to England in the match against Germany when the ball had clearly crossed the line.

This was a critical decision since it would have brought England level at half time after being two goals down and although Germany looked a much better team, who knows what could have happened in the second half?

Ironically in the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup in Germany earlier this week, France was denied a similar goal in their Group A match with Germany. A long range shot by Lea Rubio hit the crossbar and clearly crossed the line before bouncing into the arms of the German goalkeeper.

Unfortunately English referee Alexandra Ihringova and her assistant failed to notice it and co-incidentally, the match finished 4-1 to Germany – the same score as the match between Germany and England in South Africa.

The International FA Board has a Technical Sub-Committee which meets on a regular basis to consider the Laws of the Game. It does not have the authority to change the Laws but it can give permission for experiments to take place.

It met in Cardiff, Wales on 21st July and decided that the experiment of additional assistants should be continued until 2012 when a final decision will be made on whether it should be introduced on a permanent basis.

It was decided that permission should be given to the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF), the Mexican Football Association (FMF) and the French Football federation (FFF) to use the experiment in various leagues and competitions between now and 2012.

It also gave permission for the Asian Football Confederation to conduct the experiment during the AFC President’s Cup and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to conduct the experiment in various confederation competitions including the 2010/2011 UEFA Champions League.

This is the correct way to proceed. Clear guidelines will be issued on the duties of the additional referee and the communication system to the referee.

For an experiment to be approved and introduced into the Laws of the Game it must be tested in different football environments.

Some time ago there was an experiment in England of moving the ball forward 9.15 metres whenever there was dissent by the players about the referee’s decision. This proved relatively successful in England where rugby has this rule but it is highly questionable if it would be as well received in other areas where there is no rugby tradition.

Care must also be taken that experiments are not undertaken by some federations purely for novelty value. This has happened in the past when there have been requests for temporary field markings to be made by the referee spraying the 9.15 metre distance to be observed at a free kick or by wiring the referee up to a video referee in the stand who would inform him of any mistakes he had made after looking at television replays – and their communication would be broadcast live on television.

I have some reservations about how applicable the extra referee assistant system would be worldwide, even simply in terms of the cost involved. Research has already shown that it changes the movement pattern of the referee on the field and there could be problems if the additional assistant, the assistant referee and the referee disagree.

However, that is what experiments are for. This one must be monitored and assessed and the final results from all the federations and confederations involved carefully analysed.

The International FA Board meeting in 2012 will an interesting one.

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Villains and Heroes

For the teams in the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup there were stories of unexpected success such as the New Zealand team which did not qualify for the second stage but went home to a hero’s welcome as an undefeated team in a group which included the 2006 World Champions Italy.

For Italy, South Africa was a disaster. Lippi’s team finished bottom of the group and went home to widespread criticism.

Ghana, who came so close to qualifying for the semi finals, went home to the acclaim, not just of Ghana, but of Africa. Uruguay were the top South American team and went home with their pride intact and with the top player in the tournament in Diego Forlan.

Germany, a young team with great potential for 2014, finished in third place while England were major under achievers in a tournament they thought they could win.

There were other winning teams in South Africa.

The all Asian team which refereed the semi final between Uruguay and Holland was one of them.

Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan had a fantastic tournament. He refereed the first match and after another three appointments, including the high profile quarter final between Argentina and Germany, was appointed to referee the semi final clash between Netherlands and Uruguay.

His fellow Uzbek, assistant referee Rafael Ilyasov also had a great tournament starting from the fantastic decision he made in the opening match to disallow a Mexican goal for offside.

The fourth official was Yuichi Nishimura of Japan, an AFC Elite Referee. He refereed the potential powder keg match quarter final between Netherlands and Brazil with great skill and his reward was to be appointed as the fourth official to the Netherland v Uruguay semi final. He was then appointed to act as fourth official in the World Cup Final between Spain and Netherlands. A fantastic achievement.

The real hero in the team, however, was Bahadyr Kochkarov, the assistant referee from Kyrgystan. His heroism was not only on the field but off it.

While Kochkarov, an ethnic Uzbek, was running the line in the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg, his family were hiding in the basement of his house in his strife-torn home city of Osh.

His wife, eight-year-old son and elderly mother spent two days there, fearing for their lives as mobs went on the rampage from June 10-14 against the minority ethnic Uzbek population.

 “The turmoil in Kyrgyzstan happened on the night of June 10 but I only found this out early the next day when I received many SMS messages from friends and relatives,” Kochkarov said

Kochkarov was part of Uzbek Ravshan Irmatov’s refereeing team at the FIFA World Cup and the trio received praise for their performance in the pressure-filled opening match.

Indeed, they went on to officiate in a record-equaling four more matches at the tournament, including the semi-final between Netherlands and Uruguay.

As soon as the match finished, Kochkarov made desperate attempts to contact his family.

“I only managed to reach my wife and family members after the match. Thank God, everything was okay in the end. And my house was still in one piece,” said Kochkarov.

Still, it was a traumatic experience for the 40-year-old assistant, having to keep his emotions in check while his city burned.

He was fulfilling a life-long dream to be involved in the World Cup while at the same time, the lives of those closest to him were in danger thousands of miles away.

The choices he had to make were harder and more important than deciding whether or not a player was marginally offside.

“I read the news on the Internet and kept in touch with my family everyday while I was in South Africa. But even then, as a husband, a son and a man, I couldn’t help but worry about my family, relatives and friends.

Despite the emotional distress, Kochkarov fulfilled his touchline duties expertly and his team, with Irmatov taking the lead, was among the best trios at the World Cup.

“I had prepared for my World Cup debut for years and I was dying to be involved in this world football extravaganza. No matter how worried I was, I still wanted to go and do my job in a professional manner,” he said.

“I was completely focused on my work even though I was desperate to see my family with my own eyes. If I had lost my focus, I don’t think I would have been able to continue until the semi-final.”

He said the Kyrgyzstan problem had no effect on his relationship with Uzbeks Irmatov and Ilyasov.

“We are all family. We have mutual respect for each other; we have telepathic communication and understanding between each other too. In short, our relationship is special.

 “In fact, both of them and fellow referees were fully supportive of me in one of the most difficult times of my life. I truly appreciate their concern, help, encouragement … everything.”

After the situation calmed down in Osh and other parts of South Kyrgyzstan, Kochkarov was able to reflect on his performances at the World Cup.

Overall, he was satisfied and felt that his presence in South Africa may have helped to lift the spirits of the Kyrgyz people, even a little, in the aftermath of the riots.

“Many people around the world only realised there was a country called Kyrgyzstan after this … for the wrong reason,” he said.

“However, I am happy that I managed to play a small part to help my country. Actually, there are more positives than negatives about my small country.”

Forget about Forlan, Kaka, Schweinsteiger and Messi as the top people in South Africa 2010.

The real top man in South Africa came from Kyrgyzstan and carried a flag.

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Thanks for visiting my World Cup Blog.

I have enjoyed posting the articles about different aspects of the tournament and I hope you found them interesting.

There were over 50,000 hits on the site over the course of the four weeks and the readers came from all over the world.

Although the World Cup Blog will finish I will continue to post regular articles about different football topics on the site.

I hope you will have a look at them.

Best wishes.

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The Kaiser speaks sense

Franz Beckenbauer will always be remembered as the ‘Kaiser’, the majestic German captain who strolled through the game, breaking out from defence to set up attacking situations with ease and skill.

He is now one of football’s most respected elder statesmen not only as the man who won the 2006 FIFA World Cup for Germany but also as a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and possibly the next President of FIFA in 2015.

His authoritative thoughts on the game must be listened to.

He has seen the much debated English goal in the 1966 World Cup Final at very close hand and he has seen the goal which was not awarded to England in the match against Germany. In his opinion both decisions were wrong.

It does not affect his opinion on technology in the game however.

He argues that football is too unique to follow other sports where technology is used.

 “Rugby is a different game, there is an interruption every two minutes, also in American football,” he adds. “Our soccer is a moving game, play, play, play, move, move, you don’t interrupt.”

“I think it is a very difficult one because most of the decisions are very, very close. Who will decide? At the end the people have to decide. Technology would mean too many interruptions.”

If change has to come Beckenbauer will accept UEFA President Michel Platini’s idea of having two extra referees behind each goal, an experiment used in last year’s Europa League.

“They have an agreement with FIFA to do another test for the next two years in the Europa and Champions Leagues, then we will see but I’m in favour of these two extra referees behind the goal,” says Beckenbauer.

“If that system was in place, the additional referee would have spotted the Thierry Henry incident which enabled France to beat Ireland and qualify for 2010. He would also have spotted the Lampard goal.”

The Lampard controversy has forced FIFA president Sepp Blatter to look again at the issue of technology but few expect major change. Beckenbauer thinks that is right and he remains a deep football conservative.

It is reassuring to hear this voice of reason and authority in the face of a media demanding radical change without thinking of the long term consequences for the game.

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The answer to FIFA’s refereeing problems

After the controversy about refereeing standards during the World Cup, José-Maria Garcia Aranda, the FIFA Manager of the World Cup Referees, stated to a sceptical media that the refereeing performances had been very good and their accuracy rate was 96%.

This percentage is not good enough when a more talented decision-maker whose accuracy rate is 100% is available.

FIFA must now forget about goal line technology, video replays, extra assistants and penalty goals. It must appoint Paul the octopus as the world’s first FIFA Octopus Referee.

Paul has decided correctly all the German results in the tournament. His credibility was on the line when he predicted that Germany would lose to Serbia. There was talk that he would appear on the menu of a Hamburg restaurant for his lack of patriotism but despite the intense pressure, he stuck to his decision and was proved correct. Video replays confirmed that Germany had lost 1-0.

He also predicted that Spain would beat Netherlands in the Final.

Think on the benefits he would have brought to the World Cup.

He could never be accused of having his two hands tied behind his back because he was forced by FIFA to referee in a certain way. He has another six available.

When there was a midfield clash in the Final he would have used two arms to hold Marc Van Bommel, another two to hold back protesting Spanish defender Carles Puyol, two to lift up Xabi Alonso, one to blow his whistle and the remaining one to show the red card to Van Bommel.

He is the ultimate multi-tasker.

Why did no-one think on this before?

There is a drawback, however.

He would not have been able to award England the Frank Lampard goal.


He was born in England, lives in Germany and so FIFA would not have appointed him to this match.

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The circus leaves town

The airports in South Africa will be at full stretch today as fans, teams, media and officials leave for home.

The FIFA World Cup which began a month ago has finished. Now the circus is leaving town.

Those leaving will have vivid memories of their time in the country. The security fear before the tournament was unfounded and the South Africans were welcoming and colourful hosts.

The best team won in a tournament that had a mixture of good and bad on the field.

The stadia built for the tournament were spectacular. FIFA knows how to organise a World Cup and they made sure that these stadia of the highest standard.

But what happens now, after the party is over?

This is a problem for all countries which host the major international events such as the World Cup or the Olympic Games.

Will the stadia which were needed for the event still be fully used after it has finished? The answer in most cases is no.

Will they become expensive white elephants which have still to be fed from local financial resources when the circus has finished? The answer is often yes.

The joint hosting of the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan meant that 20 stadia were required.

Some of the ten stadia in Korea were newly built for the tournament but were used for just two matches. After the tournament they were too big for local needs and some were actually pulled down.

The spectacular Birds Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, centrepiece of the 2008 Olympic Games is not used fully today.

The decision to select South Africa as the hosts for the 2010 FIFA World Cup was both political and emotional. After its surprise defeat for the 2006 nomination by Germany, FIFA had promised to deliver the World Cup to Africa and although there were other African candidates, the only winner was going to be South Africa.

The massive sums used in building the stadia and infrastructure for the World Cup will only be money well spent if it can bring long term benefit to the country not just provide four weeks of worldwide limelight.

The circus has left town but hopefully it has left behind more than colourful memories.

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The 2010 FIFA World Cup Final was not without its controversies, as you would expect.

The first 15 minutes must have seemed like an eternity for referee Howard Webb as both teams sized each other up, often illegally and with no little aggression.

His game plan was clearly to avoid booking a player too early, even if the offence might have suggested otherwise. By the time the match had gone 30 minutes he had five cautions and the signs were that players were not going to get the warning.

In the entire match there were 47 fouls committed and a total of 14 yellow cards issued, two of them to John Heittinga of Netherlands who was sent off during extra time.

What a contrast with the Spain v Germany semi final when there were 16 fouls in 90 minutes and no yellow or red cards. In the Netherlands v Uruguay semi final there were 31 fouls and 5 yellow cards. 

The pressure of the occasion obviously had an effect on the players’ attitude but possibly the main reason for the high crime count was the playing styles of the teams and how they matched up to each other.  

Spain love to keep possession but when they lose possession they challenge aggressively to regain it with a strong pressing game.

They were the artists with the skill, but like all artists they can be temperamental, and they were guilty of many heavy challenges.

Netherlands, on the other hand were the artisans, a more physical side who were prepared to ‘win dirty.’ When the opponents have so much possession of the ball, challenges to regain possession are regular and as it turned out regularly over-physical.

The better team won and it was a good result for football.

 The Dutch no longer play the Total Football of yesteryear and the artists of Spain are now deservedly crowned the best team in the worldF

Howard Webb was in a very difficult situation and will no doubt look back on the match with mixed emotions. He might have sent off Dutch defender Nigel De Jong in 28 minutes for a high footed challenge on Xabi Alonso but in the end chose to issue only a yellow card.

He was in a no-win situation. If he sends off three players he is accused of wasting the Final, if he doesn’t he is still accused of wasting the Final.

He will never have a more difficult match to referee in terms of both the occasion and the attitude of the players – but forever he is a FIFA World Cup Final Referee.

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No Google on this Webb

Search engines like Google give us all instant access to information. Choose a subject and within milliseconds you have thousands of answers to you question.

Unless the question is “How do you prepare to referee a World Cup Final?”

Howard Webb will need no help in finding out from Google how to prepare for the match tonight.

His preparation has been going on for years of course since he started refereeing. As he gained more experience and gained promotion so he became familiar with the many attributes needed to be a top referee.

These qualities were the ones which saw him selected for the World Cup in the first place and now he has been appointed to the Final, the ultimate achievement for any referee.

The preparation for the Final will be a continuation of what has been taking place at the Referee Headquarters in Pretoria.

Howard and his team will have examined DVDs of the two teams over and over again to look at their tactics, the players in the teams, the way they set up at set pieces and so on.

The coaches of Spain and Netherlands will have done exactly the same in preparing their teams for tonight’s match.

‘If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’

Howard Webb and his team will be well prepared

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