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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Luck of the Irish: FIFA and the Blues See Green

FIFA has said no replay.

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, has been silent.

France just said no to a replay.

Thierry "Hands" Henry, captain of Les Bleus, belatedly said that there should be a replay. Perhaps his agent told him that his legacy (and obituary) would be that in a key game to save his national team from humiliation, he guided a ball with his hand in extra time to steer a World Cup berth to France.

The French press has been all over the French team.

The French gym teachers' union apparently is appalled at France's lack of owning up to the fiasco that the referee (a Swede) created when he didn't call an obvious hand ball (he should be relegated for at least a short time to a beer league in Beirut for missing that call).

About 6 years ago FIFA lauded a national team coach for sportsmanship when he elected not to demand a replay after an obvious blown call. That's interesting, isn't it? Sure, that coach elected not to complain mightily (thereby not giving FIFA a major headache), but those who truly merit the attention are when they take a stand that is against their own interest for the sake of integrity -- which is what the French national team and manager Raymond Domenech would be doing if they mandated to all governing bodies that there be a replay.

Instead, the French berth and FIFA itself are tainted.

As will be the 2010 World Cup.

And conspiracy theories will abound.

Those theories will say that FIFA will do anything to get team from about 7 countries -- England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil -- into the World Cup at all costs (apparently when the results of the play-in rounds revealed that France and Portugal would be in danger of not making the World Cup, the fief heads of FIFA changed the play-in match-ups to avoid a France-Portugal play-in series, thus avoiding having one of those two traditional powers not make the World Cup).

So, if FIFA wants those 7 countries in the World Cup every year, then FIFA should just say so and save the rest of us the drama and the hypocrisy. France has 64 million people and many more consumers than Ireland, which has a population of 4 million. But if that's the case, then China, India, Russia and the United States should make it in automatically every year too.

It may be that rules are rules and that FIFA needs to follow them at all costs. That would be to say that if the referee failed to call the hand ball, there's nothing that FIFA can do about it. But given all of the doubts and the fact that few, if any, could imagine a World Cup without France, it's hard to dispel notions that the hand of someone muted the whistle of the referee. And while there's no evidence to suggest that -- the guy might have had an awful day and been daydreaming about his plans for after the match -- 4 million Irishmen, many Frenchmen, and many others will wonder for a while what happened on that play that prevented the referee from making the obvious call.


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