Archive for July, 2011

Football and cricket – worlds apart

The present cricket test series between England and India has thrown up a major controversy.

Ian Bell, one of England’s top batsmen, was given out after a misunderstanding about an incident which happened just before the tea interval.

Bell thought the ball had gone for four runs and walked to the pavilion.

The ball had, however, had not gone over the boundary and he was ruled out when the ball was returned and he was out of his crease.

There was a great amount of feeling about the decision between the two teams and discussions took place between the umpires and the captains during the tea break.

Technically Bell was out!

India took to the field after tea to boos from the spectators but the boos turned to cheers of appreciation when Ian Bell returned to the field to resume his innings.

The spirit of the game had overtaken the Laws of the Game.

This is very commendable and the Indian team deserve absolute credit for its support of the spirit of the game and for its integrity.

There is a great danger in taking such major decisions.

In football would a player admit he has cheated by diving in the penalty area and ask the referee to change a decision?

The answer is 100% NO!

The Laws of the Game are more important than the spirit of the game.

Technically Bell was out and should have taken no further part in the innings.

Maybe football could learn a lot from cricket, however.

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Sectarianism – a Scottish problem

Following a number of incidents of sectarian abuse last season, mostly involving Rangers and Celtic but with a particularly serious incident involving Hearts, The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond set up meetings which have eventually resulted in an Anti-Sectarianism Bill being passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Unfortunately sectarianism is a special problem, especially in the West of Scotland.

The 1849 Irish Potato Famine and the industrial revolution brought major waves of catholic immigrants from Ireland to the west of Scotland while the shipyards on Clydeside attracted more Irish labour in the First World War.

There also are strong historical links between some protestant groups in the west of Scotland and the unionist groups in Northern Ireland.

The historical background manifests itself today in the intense rivalry between Rangers – the team supported by most protestants – and Celtic – the team supported by most catholics.

Scottish Premier League officials will liaise with the match delegates and the police after each game to discuss any problem of chanting or sectarian abuse.

The match delegates will also be asked to focus more on matters off the field in the coming season and referees will be expected to report any sectarian comments or singing.

In all forty action points were recommended earlier this month after numerous meetings chaired by Scotland’s First Minister.

Other recommendations included a new national football policing unit, greater use of football banning orders and a single code of conduct for managers, players and fans.

Mr Salmond said he was determined to tackle the problem head on, insisting that if the events of last season were to be repeated it would be “a disaster for our national game.”

But football is not the cause of sectarianism. It is only a vehicle which bigots on both sides use to express their intolerance.

Politicians, also, use football as a high profile means of gaining publicity. Many are not particular well informed about football but they realise the publicity football can generate.

I have a great deal of sympathy for Rangers and Celtic in this respect since one man’s sectarian chant is another man’s protest or traditional song.

If the football authorities really want to take a strong line, however, they should deduct points from teams where there are continued examples of sectarianism – basically Rangers and Celtic.

It will be unfair on the clubs, but maybe the silent majority will be prepared to open their eyes, listen to the comments and speak out against the bigots who do no good to Scottish football.

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This technology should be allowed

The first meeting of the newly formed FIFA Task Force Football 2014 took place on 10th May 2011 and minutes of the meeting have been published.

The Task Force is composed of those involved in different aspects of football – coaches, referees, players, a medical specialist, a member if FIFPRO and the presidents and general secretaries of associations.

There were the ongoing discussions about goal line technology and the experiment with additional assistants, but another aspect of technology which I found particularly interesting was the use of technology in the technical area.

The FIFA Secretary General, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, said that communication could not be stopped. Radio communication between a coach in the stand and another coach in the technical area is normal since they both have different perspectives of the patterns of play and can make tactical changes accordingly.

The acting chairman, Kalusha Bwalya, who is the current president of the Football Association of Zambia and former Zambian international striker was of the opinion that the use of laptops, iPads etc. should be forbidden on the bench.

Sunil Gulati, the acting deputy chairman and Chief Executive of US Soccer Federation, stated that the real issue came down to technology/communication in real time. The use of real time match analysis is common in American sports such as American football and basketball.

At the interval the coach will have a full analysis of the play in the first half or in some cases the first quarter. This allows the coach to make tactical or personnel changes.

The presence of laptops in the technical area can also be used to question some referee decisions and this was a fear for some members of the committee, including the newly appointed FIFA Head of Refereeing. Massimo Busacca.

I have no problem also with the match being broadcast on large stadium screens in real time so long as there are no replays on controversial incidents.

In my opinion, however, the presence of computers in the technical should be allowed. It will not change a referee’s decision and players will always come to the referee at the end of a match to complain about a decision, whether or not they have seen it on television.

If the technology improves the quality of play it should be allowed.

The controversy will always be there, with or without laptops and iPads on the bench.

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The female future is Asia

The victory of Japan over USA in the Final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup was a highly significant event in Asian football.

The victory over USA, the super power of women’s football, was as much a testimony to perseverance as it was to skill.

Twice the Japanese team came from behind to draw 2-2 with a strong American team and win 3-1 in kicks from the penalty mark.

The profile of Asian football has again been raised on the world stage.

“This is a great day for Asian football,” said AFC Senior Vice-President Zhang Jilong.

“The ‘Nadeshiko’ have made us all immensely proud. They have shown what is possible if one has the resolve, determination and persistence.”

The Senior AFC Vice-President called upon AFC’s Member Associations to follow Japan’s example.

“This is the biggest possible boost to women’s football in our continent and other Member Associations should try to emulate Japan’s example,” added Jilong.

Make no mistake, AFC can be immensely proud of the performance of the new FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions, as it was with the performance of its refereeing officials in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa 2010 and the progress of Japan in the same competition.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the victory the “greatest gift” to the nation, especially to the residents of the northeast coast most devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.”

A nation reeling from months of tragedy has been united in joyous celebration after a team nicknamed “Nadeshiko” — for a pink mountain flower — became the first from Asia to win the biggest prize in women’s football.

Yes, the Future is Asia – and there is more to come!

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IFAB needs to take a different approach

When a penalty kick is awarded, it is uncommon for no infringement to take place – either by the defenders, the attackers or both.

Goalkeepers almost always infringe the Laws by moving forward from the goal line before the ball is kicked.

I was involved with the change to the Laws in 1997 which removed the compulsory caution for a player or players who encroached at the taking of a penalty kick.

The argument was that this would give the referee the opportunity to have the kick retaken without administering an automatic sanction.

I now think this was a wrong decision and it should be rectified.

When encroachment takes place at a penalty kick the offender should be punished by a yellow card.

When goalkeepers move forward from their goal line they should also be cautioned.

This is the only way to deal with encroachment at penalty kicks.

If the International F A Board decides that this is a matter of serious concern, it must now apply appropriate sanctions.

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I think FIFA has made a good decision to appoint Massimo Busacca as its new Head of Refereeing.

There has been a void in the FIFA Referee Department since the departure of José- Maria Garcia Aranda after the 2010 World Cup and it was essential that this was filled by someone of status in international refereeing.

Busacca has had his moments of controversy, as have had all top referees, but he will relish the challenges ahead of him.

He is Swiss, which will be an asset in Zurich, and is fluent in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.

He is also a member of the new FIFA Task Force Football 2014 chaired by Franz Beckenbauer.

He will not have the responsibility of preparing the FIFA Referee Development Programmes and working with the Referee Assistance Programmes (RAP) which will stay with Fernando Tresaco but his main focus will be in preparing the referees for Brazil 2014.

This is a major task and, based on his own experience of two FIFA World Cups, he will have his own ideas on how to move ahead.

Make no mistake, however, he will be judged on the success or failure of the referees in Brazil.

This judgement, and the public perception, could hinge on a few controversial incidents such as the ball crossing the line – England v Germany, an offside goal – Mexico v Argentina or a disallowed goal – USA v Slovenia.

There is a very fine line between success and failure.

I pass on my best wishes to Massimo Busacca, the new FIFA Head of Refereeing, in his challenging new role.

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Match fixing – football biggest threat

In recent days the ugly side of the beautiful game has been all too evident.

In South Korea, 46 players have been indicted for alleged match fixing. They allegedly took bribes to fix the results of matches or bet on matches they knew would be fixed.

Another eleven people, including gambling brokers and members of organised crime group were also indicted.

Prosecutors have suggested that last year fifteen K League matches were rigged.

Previously, fifteen players were indicted over similar accusations.

The K League is 28 years old and government officials have threatened to shut it down if any more corruption takes place.

Big money is involved.

Kickbacks of up to $30,000 were paid while a high profile player, Kim Dong-hyum of Sangju Sangmu, is reported to have earned $375,000 by betting on matches.

Also in Turkey, a court has formally charged fifteen players with match fixing.

There is the possibility that the Turkish Premier League champions, Fenerbahce will be stripped of their title and an arrest warrant has been issued for its President, Aziz Yildirim.

Fenerbahce won sixteen of their last seventeen matches to come from far behind to win the championship. This qualifies them for the Champion League but The Turkish FA has until July 15th to confirm to UEFA which teams will represent Turkey in the European club competitions.

In recent years there have been corruption scandals in a number of countries including China, Italy, Egypt, Germany and Vietnam.

FIFA has responded by setting up a special corruption unit with Interpol in Singapore.

Match fixing is now seen as a major threat to the game in a number of countries.

Strong deterrents must be issued to those found guilty – heavy fines, prison sentences and automatic life bans from all football.

It will not eradicate the problem but it may make some think twice before they fix a match.

Dealing with match fixing is now one of football’s biggest challenges.

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It’s the silly season

It is the silly season again. At least I hope it is.

When football has its summer break in Europe there is normally nothing else to fill the sports pages – apart from Wimbledon, F1, the US Open Golf Championship, the Open Championship and the Tour de France.

Oh and there is also the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the FIFA U-17 World Cup and the Copa America.

Someone has raised the suggestion that FIFA is considering changing the way football is played by having three periods of 30 minutes instead of two periods of 45 minutes.

Why the possible change?

It is reported that it is because if, no when, the FIFA World Cup is held in Qatar in 2022, the weather will be around 50°C, too hot for the players to play 45 minutes.

First of all you have to ask the question ‘if the intensive heat is such a problem, why did FIFA decide to go to Qatar in the first place.’

But enough of the decisions of the FIFA Executive Committee!

Before the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany there were requests from the host nation to make a change to the Laws. Quite a simple request really.

If the International FA Board would agree to make the half time interval 20 minutes instead of 15, it would allow more advertising to be sold on television and the 20 minute interval would be less of an inconvenience to those enjoying corporate hospitality.

Thankfully the IFAB were not convinced by the argument and the proposal was thrown out, as will happen to the suggestion of the ‘three halves.’

Football must never allow the Laws to be changed because of commercial considerations, as in the case of Germany, or because of climatic considerations, as in the case of the Qatar scenario.

The Laws of the Game must preserve their integrity.

Wouldn’t it be great if other aspects of the game did the same!

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