The Gnomes Of Zurich Are At It Again

by on November 9, 2011
in FIFA

I can actually understand why FIFA might be a bit touchy about emblems on shirts.

They’ve got it wrong before.

For example, in the 1934 FIFA World Cup tournament the Italian team (who won both that competition and went on to win in France in 1938) wore the Fascist symbol on their shirts: it’s clearly visible on the official tournament poster and TOFFS are still making and selling that particular shirt. Quite what FIFA thought about the Italian side giving the Fascist salute throughout the tournament isn’t clear, although this newsreel clip shows that players that featured in the infamous ‘Battle Of Highbury’ six months later weren’t shy about giving the glad hand during a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Here’s a picture of future manager of West Germany Helmut Schoen playing for the famous ‘Breslau Elf’ before the war. Have a close look at the badge. Presumably FIFA didn’t think that was ‘political’ either.

After World War II, I don’t recall FIFA being too bothered about the communist countries who wore the red star on their shirts even though that’s an overtly political symbol. Similarly, political considerations seem to have been absent from the 1978 FIFA World Cup: a tournament that was cynically exploited for propaganda purposes by the brutal military junta in Argentina.

In the past couple of decades the political geography of Europe has changed a lot: for example, despite not being a monarchy since the Romanov dynasty was overthrown in the November revolution almost a century ago, the double headed eagle that was a symbol of that regime has now reappeared on the Russian football shirt.

Additionally, if national team shirts are not supposed to have any political, religious or commercial messages, then surely that also applies to the kit manufacturer logos.

But ultimately, FIFA couldn’t give a **** about anything other than FIFA.

That’s also worth remembering this weekend. We’ll be back before the end of the week with a look at the Euro 2012 playoffs and England’s friendly with Spain.

Hail Blatter!

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll, ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ from ‘ Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There’

In the run up to Blatter’s coronation we’ve had all kinds of lurid tales including some concerning our unsuccessful World Cup bid: principally the suggestion that the FA Cup could be re-named after Dr. Nicolas Leoz (the president of CONMEBOL) and the attempt by the execrable Jack Warner to exploit the Haitian earthquake by demanding discounts for broadcasting rights that were not his to offer. The representative from Argentina (who I am not even going to bother to name) apparently suggested the Falkland Islands should be returned to Argentina.

From a purely British point of view, there are a number of people who emerge from this mess with any sort of credibility. It’s easy to be wise after the event, but it looks like Lord Triesman was right all along, despite having undermined his position by falling head over heels into a honey trap set up by an odious rag that we continue to boycott. The FA and Scottish FA will be the only football associations to abstain from voting this afternoon and Prince William has also backed the decision to do so.

However, what happens today is ultimately of no concern to Blatter and his henchmen who – rather like some of the other notorious European dictators throughout history – won’t tolerate any dissent and are more than happy to hang their own supporters out to dry.

As a keen amateur historian, some of the statements coming from both sides (and this means you, Geoff Thompson) are beginning to sound like the dialogue that went on between Hitler and Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia in 1938: appeasing those b*stards didn’t work then and appeasing this bunch of crooks won’t work now.

It’s time to pick up the ball and leave. Football should be coming home.

For good.

2010: Annus Mediocris

After the World Cup we had, it’s not too difficult to feel at least a twinge of sympathy with our near neighbours, although on the other hand it’s also quite difficult to suppress any giggling.

In some respects the French campaign in South Africa was so wonderfully dysfunctional that it’s hard to imagine any other team self destructing with such panache; at least Italy nearly made it to the second round although at least they have some previous when it comes to underperfoming in Africa.

The sanctions the French FA imposed on their squad in the aftermath of both the performance on the pitch and the histrionics off it look like a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Tonight’s friendly can be seen from two contradictory angles. On the optimistic side, it’s an opportunity for both sides to field players with minimal international experience who wouldn’t normally make a contribution in the hope that a couple of them will make a breakthrough. From a negative point of view, the game will feature ‘experimental’  (ie under strength) sides and concludes a year that arguably could and should have been more successful for both sides. That’s certainly the way French manager Laurent Blanc seems to see it (some knowledge of French required).

The problem we’ve got – again – is goals. Montenegro’s clean sheet was the first time that we’ve failed to score at home since February 2007, when a goal from Andres Iniesta was enough for a Spanish win at Old Trafford. Fab’s hands have been tied with the usual crop of withdrawals and injuries, which is why the (ahem) ‘troubled but talented’ Andy Carroll of Newcastle will probably start up front; presumably he got the nod before Cardiff City’s Jay Bothroyd because Cardiff aren’t in the Premiership…yet.

The only other confirmed starters are Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson and Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs – when there’s some kind of news about what the team actually is, we’ll have it here.

With just under two weeks to go before the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, it’s fair to say that – for whatever reason – our chances of winning the bid are slightly worse than they were at the beginning of the year.

The incident concerning Lord Triesman was regrettable even if there may have been something to it; the perception of the Sunday Times enquiry into vote buying may have damaged the bid even though it seems public perception refuses to blame the journalists, who were right to investigate what was happening.

So the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia will be made by a discredited body that won’t even have enough time to investigate itself before announcing where the next two competitions will be held.

Don’t hold your breath and be prepared for more disappointment. However, if by some miracle we actually win the bid, then mine’s several pints of Bombardier.

Update: starting line up against France:

Foster, Jagielka, Ferdinand, Lescott, Gibbs, Walcott, Henderson, Barry, Milner, Gerrard, Carroll.

Didn’t Ferdinand Lescott-Gibbs discover the Zambezi?

Ref Watch

by on April 21, 2010
in FIFA, World Cup 2010

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: you may already know that Martin Hansson of Sweden (the ref who missed the Thierry Henry handball) is on the official refs list for the World Cup Finals, but after watching Roberto Rossetti of Italy referee the Bayern Munich v Lyon Champions League semi final this evening, he may be one that England may need to keep an eye on. Two red cards: a justifiable straight one for Bayern’s Frank Ribery but worryingly a second yellow for Jeremy Toulalan of Lyon – for the type of challenge that goes unpunished in football matches up and down the UK.

History Repeating Itself?

Thierry Henry has escaped any kind of censure from FIFA over the handball incident against Ireland last year, in much the same way as Diego Maradona did in 1986. The statement that FIFA issued is interesting though – the bold text has been added by us:

“On 2 December 2009, the FIFA Executive Committee asked the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to analyse the handling offence committed by Thierry Henry during the France v. Republic of Ireland match on 18 November 2009, and to consider the possible disciplinary consequences.

“At its meeting on 18 January 2010, the Disciplinary Committee reached the conclusion that there was no legal foundation for the committee to consider the case because handling the ball cannot be regarded as a serious infringement as stipulated in article 77a) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code. There is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials.”

In case you were wondering (and we know you were), here’s article 77 for you:

‘Article 77 Specific Jurisdiction

The Disciplinary Committee is responsible for:

a. Sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention:

b. Rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions:

c. Extending the duration of a match suspension incurred automatically by an expulsion (cf. art 18, par.4)

d. Pronouncing additional sanctions, such as a fine.’

So now you know. A deliberate handball in the act of scoring a goal that is missed by the referee is not a serious enough infringement for the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to look at it retrospectively. The last sentence in the statement is interesting as it seems to imply that the FIFA lawyers have had to look at it. You know, just in case any parties that might have had a grievance felt like taking the matter to the next level.

The second incident is reminiscent of what happened at the World Cup in Spain in 1982. Austria and West Germany knew they only had to draw in order for both to qualify for the second round at the expense of Algeria; so it should not have come as a massive surprise that the game – which as much fun as watching paint dry by all accounts - ended 0-0. Since then, the last group games in major international tournaments have kicked of simultaneously in order to prevent that happening again.

Or at least that was how it was supposed to work. On Monday – with both teams knowing in advance that a draw would do – Algeria drew 0-0 with Angola and both qualified for the quarter finals of the African Cup of Nations at Mali’s expense; Mali have launched an official complaint to the CAF about the game.

Hopefully we won’t get any outrageous decisions or games like those mentioned above this summer, but don’t be too shocked if we do. Let’s just hope England aren’t involved in any of them.

FIFA Probably Needs To Redefine ‘Emergency Meeting’

First of all, apologies – some peculiar technical glitches with my internet connection (who knew that ‘the internets’ could get blown around by high winds) and my laptop (which desperately needs a new fan), it’s not been possible to post anything for a week or so. Everything seems to be working at the moment, so here’s a new post.

A quick summary of yesterday’s FIFA emergency general meeting: there will no changes in the amount of match officials and Thierry Henry will be ‘investigated’.

That’s it. I hope lunch was a good one.

More importantly, the seeding system for tomorrow’s draw were announced and are as follows:

Pot One:  South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England and the Netherlands

Pot Two: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay

Pot Three: Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Mexico and Honduras.

Pot Four:  France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark and Slovakia.

According to the latest FIFA rankings, five of the teams in Pot 4, half of the teams in Pot 2 and two of the teams in Pot 3 are in the top 20. Despite qualifying via the playoffs, France and Portugal are currently ranked higher than we are (which may see one of them drawn in South Africa’s group)

Another thing worth remembering is that as the South American qualifiers have already played each other during their continental qualifying competition, it is highly unlikely that they’ll be drawn against each other. I’d also be surprised if South Africa are drawn against another African nation.

There’s been a lot of speculation in today’s press regarding possible opponents for England but I’m not going to waste time on that; here’s a list of qualifying nations we’ve never played: Algeria, Ghana, Honduras, North Korea, the Ivory Coast and Serbia. I really hope we avoid the last two in the group stages – both of them are potential quarter finalists. Another fact to amaze your friends: we have not played a competitive game against Chile since the notorious 1950 World Cup campaign when we lost to the USA.

All being well we’ll be covering the draw live via the 11lionslive tab above. The draw will be covered on BBC2 starting at 5:15pm GMT and – apparently for the first time – live on ESPN at 12.oopm EST.

So in less than 24 hours we’ll know our opponents and millions of stickers, wall charts and previews will be keeping printing presses busy across the world…hooray!

FIFA Extraordinary General Meeting: Don’t Hold Your Breath.

by on November 23, 2009
in FIFA, World Cup 2010

The announcement today that Sepp Blatter has called an extraordinary general meeting of FIFA in Cape Town two days before the draw for the finals seems to be a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The rather terse statement on FIFA.com runs as follows:

‘Due to recent events in the world of football, namely incidents at the play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africaâ„¢, match control (refereeing) and irregularities in the football betting market, the FIFA President has called an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee.’

OK, let’s go through this point by point. Presumably the ‘incidents’ include the stoning of the Algerian bus in Cairo before their playoff with Egypt, ‘match control’ must refer to Thierry Henry’s ‘goal’ versus Ireland and the ‘irregularities in the football betting market’ refers to the wave of arrests that have taken place in continental Europe over the past week or so. The first one is a World Cup issue and a World Cup connection is implied within the second issue so we’ll deal with them here: we’ll probably only discuss the third if it somehow becomes relevent to next summer.

The date of the meeting automatically rules out the prospect of some kind of Ireland v France rematch, but – as has been suggested elsewhere – it may mean that the experiment with two extra officials patrolling the goal lines that is taking part in the Europa League this season may be permanent next summer. If – and it’s a big if – the extra official had seen Henry’s handball, then the goal might not have been allowed; it remains to be seen if video technology might be considered, but when one of the corporate ‘partners’ is one of the world’s largest electronic manufacturers…well you get the picture. In HD where possible.

The bus stoning incident in Cairo was a pretty nasty one and both sides have blamed each other for it, but it was not the only problem during the qualifiers and certainly isn’t the first time that there’s been crowd trouble in Africa during qualifying competitions. Closer to home,  the Serbian FA were fined £26,700 (approximately $45,000 or 29,500 or so Euros) for trouble caused by their fans during their qualifiers and elements of our lunatic fringe will try their best to cause problems next summer. Apparently ‘street’ drinking is illegal in South Africa even though it is felt that the local police will ignore it for the duration of the finals; a horde of rampaging hooligans (or what might appear to be rampaging hooligans) in the middle of a country with an undeniably serious crime problem could be potentially catastrophic.

I really don’t want to come across as the voice of doom and I’d really like to think that the FIFA meeting might result in something positive, but quite what they’re going to do about an international superstar breaking Law 12 and getting away with it or how they expect to stop hooliganism by raising fines against national football associations is beyond me. Let’s see what they come up with…but don’t hold your breath.