Fair play points: Time has come

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

The Italian tricolour flies higher than the French one and will do so for the next four years.

FIFA's yellow and blue Fair Play flag is tattered and torn after it was stomped and spat upon during the 2006 World Cup.

The beautiful game is bruised and blemished.

Is this a blip or has the world's beloved pastime changed?

Like the host German flag, red, yellow and black were the colours of this tournament. Red and yellow for the cards displayed by referees hoping to retain control of their matches.

Black for the tarnish on a game that's supposed to unite nations in peaceful competition.

Italian Daniele De Rossi earned a red card and four-game suspension for elbowing American Brian McBride in an opening round match. McBride's teammates Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope were also sent off in a game the United States might've won.

Referee Valentin Ivanov handed out a record 16 yellow cards and four reds in the infamous Portugal vs. Netherlands round of 16 match.

The tournament averaged almost five cautions per game. There were 28 red cards, including the most famous seen by 1.2 billion around the globe.

Zinedine Zidane's ejection for head-butting of Marco Materazzi in extra time of Sunday's final means one of the greatest players of this era will not be remembered for his skill with the bleu, blanc et rouge. His legacy is that single rouge.

The momentary lapse of reason cost him a chance to hoist the World Cup in his soccer swansong.

Violence and disrespect of opponents is half the problem. Faking injury is the other.

FIFA's top medic Dr. Jiri Dvorak said 88 of the 156 on-pitch treatments through the first 62 games didn't merit notation in post-game reports.

FIFA needs to respond swiftly (which it rarely does) and regulate Fair Play by incentive.

The stick hasn't worked, so maybe a carrot on the stick will.

The time has come for Fair Play points.

Ultimate, the popular co-ed team Frisbee sport, awards so-called "spirit points" for respect, integrity and dignity. Soccer needs to do the same.

Here's the way it should be. The team with fewer fouls at the end of a group play match would receive a point. A point would be deducted for each yellow card. A further three would be taken away for each red card. Fair Play points would be used as a tiebreaker should wins and ties and goal differential not do the job at the end of group play.

It would force teams to play with sportsmanship and do away with the last-resort tiebreaker: The dreaded lottery.

In an elimination round or championship match, Fair Play points would replace a coin toss to determine which team kicks off in extra time or begins the penalty kick shootout. The most sportsmanlike team would have the option of first ball.

So FIFA, are you serious about rescuing Fair Play?

Or is your flag just a decoration?


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