Blame Blatter for faux pas

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:53 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG - The replay had barely been shown on a nearby television in the Soccer City media centre when one out-of-control reporter lost his cool.

Having seen a shot from England’s Frank Lampard bounce off the cross bar, then clearly hop at least one foot over the German goal line, this particular whack job could not believe it when the goal was not allowed.

Knowing the Lampard tally would have knotted up this titanic England-Germany round of 16 tilt in Bloemfontein at 2-2, he angrily picked up a chair and threatened to crush the TV screen in front of him.

Clearly his angry gesture, one understandably repeated in boozy pubs all over England, was aimed at Uruguayan assistant referee Mauricio Espinosa and his countryman, referee Jorge Larrionda.

There is every reason to be bitter. To have a faux pas at such a crucial time, in such a huge match, on such a global stage, in front of hundreds of millions of eyeballs watching in households across the worlds, is simply inexcusable.

At the same time, all this venom is misdirected.

FIFA itself is the culprit here.

Shame on you, Sepp Blatter.

The same goes to all you other decision makers in the soccer world.

These movers and shakers seem to feel they are above the integrity of the game. Especially those with FIFA. They continuously fend off suggestions that technology should be used to aid the sport, arguing the human element is an integral part of the outcome.

The human element certainly was an integral part of the outcome Sunday. And it carried a rotten stench with it, one that won’t go away for a long time.

Nor should it.

Back in the day, the National Hockey League used to be similar sticks-in-the-mud about such things. Then they quickly got wise. Now, instant replay is used on any controversial play in which there is a question whether the puck crossed the goal line, with Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy and the crew going over every possible angle in the league’s war room in Toronto.

There was no question in the Germany-England game that Lampard’s ball crossed the line. It did. Even Blatter, from his swank VIP perch in Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium, should have been able to see that.

And still, FIFA continues to do it’s ostrich imitation, burying its head in the sand.

We present this ironic piece of evidence to back our case.

On the same day that Lampard was screwed out of a goal, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke was telling a press conference here in Johannesburg how the organization would not back off its objection to use technology to assist referees.

Valcke reportedly said video aid was “definitely not on the table.” He said it was impossible to have a “zero-fault” system.

Maybe not. But it certainly can improve the system. The NHL is proof of that.

Valcke added consideration is being given to adding two more officials to aid referees. What good will that do if they are as blind as the guys working the Germany-England game?

One of the strongest arguments why the sport of soccer, at least at the professional level, has not taken off in North America in terms of fan interest is that such flagrant mistakes have been allowed to go on.

Whether you agree with it or not, history shows there is credibility to that point of view.

The moment play was allowed to go on after Lampard’s goal-that-wasn’t, the entire media centre here brought up Geoffrey Hurst’s game-winner in England’s 4-2 victory over Germany in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley Stadium. In the past few months, Hurst admitted that, after viewing video of the play, the ball didn’t go in.

Fair enough. What’s done is done.

But there have been far more recent incidents that have left FIFA wiping egg off its face.

Like Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, a play in which the Argentine star clearly admitted he slapped the ball into the net. It is a moment that Maradona jokes about to this day.

What it was, was a humiliation for FIFA.

Just like the hand ball used by France’s Thierry Henry that led to a key goal in World Cup qualifying for South Africa 2010, the “Hand of Fraud” play that potentially helped screw Ireland out of a berth here.

And just like the ball that bounced off the arm of Brazil’s Luis Fabiano - not once, but twice - en route to his goal in a 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast last week.

In each case, everyone but the officials saw it. In each case, the play was allowed to go on, thanks to the arrogance of FIFA.

Was Germany the better team Sunday in its 4-1 victory? Yes.

Was England screwed out of a chance to see how the game would have progressed with the score deadlocked 2-2? Yes.

Hope you had a good view of it all, Mr. Blatter.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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