Typical that Ireland ends up being at the butt end when the joke should be on FIFA and France.
Sepp Blatter’s self-serving and selective disclosure at the Soccerex business conference in Johannesburg that the FAI fancifully requested admission to next summer’s World Cup finals as a 33rd nation – and the withering jocularity with which he delivered the news to mirthful delegates – has left the victims of France’s unlawful entry to South Africa looking like laughing stocks.
In hindsight, rather than go to Zurich with a begging bowl, and be made fools of twice over, if they felt strongly enough FAI chief John Delaney & co could, and perhaps should, have brought a legal case against FIFA for the loss of those earnings they would have expected to accrue by getting to the World Cup: a figure estimated at up to €25m when merchandising, sponsorships and knock-on income are factored in. (Economists say the cost to the impoverished Irish exchequer could be as much as €0.5bn based on two million people spending a conservative-enough €250-a-head during the tournament.)
Some would submit we’ve suffered sufficient embarrassment, already portrayed as whingers and now naïve Paddies. A civil action mightn’t win many friends in the game, but at the very least it would show some balls and put the smirk on the other side of smug Sepp’s face.
With scandal rife throughout society, the world has never been more cynical. As Sky Sports ‘Soccer Saturday’ panelist Phil Thompson said, does anyone think that France wouldn’t have been awarded a replay if the boot had been on the other foot?
The consensus is that had Robbie Keane been the guilty party then France and Ireland would be meeting again, no question. Imagine the reaction of the French people, for whom revolution is a reflex reaction, if the roles were reversed?
Meanwhile, while his reputation has rightly suffered (despite an almost blanket defence from fellow pros, including his Irish contemporaries) retrospective punishment for Thierry Henry would send out a belated message that cheating – sometimes – comes at a cost. Not that the hapless Monsieur Domenech and the FFF, whatever about their country’s genuinely offended fans, would consider that much of a price to pay.
I’ve been sceptical in the past about introducing in-game camera technology in football, rationalising that the same rules should apply to a weekend junior league game as an international showpiece.
But when football’s moral code (if there ever was one) is so evidently transgressed that the sort of flagrant con artistry witnessed at the Stade de France two weeks ago can be almost condoned – and inevitably taken as a win-at-all-costs example by kids the world over – then it’s time to change from the top down.
I‘m not holding my breath, however. “The highest crime in football is touching the ball with the hands,” Blatter claimed ahead of this week’s ‘emergency meeting’ in Cape Town, while maintaining, “We have to maintain the human face of football and not go into technology.”
Behind the idea to pilot endline officials in this season’s Europa Cup (every Liverpool cloud has a copper lining), UEFA boss and FIFA vice-president Michel Platini views “two more pairs of eyes” as the solution to the vision thing. “For years players [himself included] have cheated because the referees were not of a good enough quality. With our plan to bring in five officials you will be spotted.”
Extra officials would only reduce the chances of, not eliminate human error, which, in real time, in the real world, will always happen. The application of video at the highest level at least looks a no-brainer. But sure what have brains got to do with it.