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Just The Sports: FIFA Wakes Up

Just The Sports

Monday, June 26, 2006

FIFA Wakes Up

(Helpful Hint: Fast forward to 39 seconds. If at work, mute.)

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has finally awoken to the fact that the poor performance of his referees is diverting people's attention away from where it should be, on the games and the players. After defending the mediocrity of the referees in the group stage (mediocrity most famously exemplified by Jorge Larrionda and the inability of Graham Poll to do the simple math of one yellow plus one yellow equals one red), Blatter realized that such mediocrity in refereeing in the knockout stages where the games are more important is much harder to defend.

Therefore, after reviewing Valentin Ivanov's love affair with his shirt pocket during the Portugal-Netherlands match, Blatter has said "there could have been a yellow card for the referee."

Could have been? The man sent four players off, two from each team. At the very least, he should be given 8 yellow cards, half the number he gave out, which would effectively end his World Cup reign.

Another thing which caught my eye in the write-up was how FIFA is dealing with Luis Figo.

Portugal captain Luis Figo was lucky to escape ejection, getting a yellow card for a skirmish with Mark van Bommel when TV replays clearly showed him head-butting the Dutch player in the 58th minute -- a direct red card offense.

FIFA communications director Markus Siegler said Monday that the disciplinary committee would not review the incident because Ivanov had taken action, on the field, on advice from his linesman.

Figo "was sanctioned immediately by the referee," he said. "The referee's report came in last night and is being analyzed by the relevant people. But it is very unlikely anything will happen as he has been sanctioned already on the spot."

"It is only where there is a clear disciplinary issue which has not been acted upon by the referee that the (disciplinary) committee can look at it," Siegler said.

That smell in the air after you finished reading that segment is bullshit. The real reason FIFA is not going to do anything is because any action would require them to suspend Figo for the quarterfinals at least and since Portugal will already be without Deco, they didn't want Portugal to suffer further from the absence of another of their best footballers.

And as for Siegler's claim that when a clear disciplinary issue cannot be looked at if the referee acted upon it, perhaps he is forgetting how FIFA handled Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Mastroeni after the Italy-US match.

In essence, the FIFA disciplinary committee reviewed the players' red cards and added further penalty to their punishment by suspending De Rossi for four matches and Mastroeni for three matches.

It seems that FIFA's inconsistency with player infractions starts at the top and the referees' performance on the field is the result of a trickle-down effect. Whenever human subjectivity is involved, inconsistency and mediocrity are sure to follow.

(UPDATE: At least someone thought Ivanov did a good job. His father.)


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