Thursday, December 3, 2009

World Cup fiasco starts here

So over the last couple of weeks we've had The Hand of Gaul, another rejection of video technology and extra officials, a controversy over seedings, an attempt to fit a 33rd team in, and Diego Maradona attempting to gatecrash the draw despite a ban for waving his private parts at journalists.

And that's before we get into the difficulties constructing the stadiums, the dodgy pitches, the appalling infrastructure, the lack of hotel accomodation for fans, and the general threat of violence and carjacking throughout the country. Oh, and the damn vuvuzuela horns that made last summer's confederations cup watchable only with the sound off.

Ladies and gentleman, I welcome you to the start of the buildup to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It already stinks of farce, and it doesn't even start till June.

FIFA badly need this to go well, as the 2014 tournament has been given to Brazil, a country with a set of problems remarkably similar to South Africa. In hindsight, the last two World Cups were disappointments on the pitch - 2002 was wrecked by injuries to top players, a difficult climate and refereeing which was either corrupt or crap (and curiously in favour of South Korea throughout). whilst 2006 started like a rocket, peaked with Argentina's masterful 6-0 destruction of Serbia & Montenegro, and then died a horrible death with a succession of dull, cagey knockout games. But what both tournaments had in common was a set of majestic, full stadiums, efficient transport and unrivalled experiences for the fans. And since Euro two-thousand-and-great proved that attacking football is back with a bang, there seemed reason to be optimistic that the coming World Cup would be a footballing carnival once more.

Some hope. And FIFA only have themselves to blame.

I could go on all day about the ridiculousness of giving South Africa, a country with, shall we say, rather a lot of problems, an event of this size and prestige - but you really, really don't want me to, because before long you would be attempting to commit hara-kiri with a dinner fork. So lets instead delve deeper into the more recent past. I've already posted after the Henry scandal, but for crying out loud, what the hell is an "official inquiry" into it going to achieve? It doesn't take a committee to work out what happened. The pretext seems to be "an official inquiry resulting in a suspension for a game or two" but I'd love to see that stand up in court. If Arsenal successfully managed to challenge a ban for Eduardo's diving, surely France can overturn an attempt to ban Henry for what, if spotted at the time, was a bookable offence.

Sadly, there is no sign that lessons will be learnt from Thierry Henry's antics. They proved, once and for all that, however capable the officials are, they can't see everything and need help. Therefore, the important thing is to make sure it never happens again. And the best way to do that is by introducing video technology or goalline officials. Yet Sepp Blatter continues to reject help-by-TV for what appear to be similar reasons to which the Plymouth Brethren use to reject it - we didn't need it in the good old days. And refusing to bring in the extra eyes of goalline assistants just sounds like making a rod for your own back. If Blatter tries one more time to use the argument of "if it can't be used in all matches, it can't be used in any", I might actually spontaneously combust - for goodness sake, think jumpers-for-goalposts, or all those amateur games which cope without linesmen. Think of it this way; is there any other sport in which wrong decisions by referees make such a huge impact on the outcome?

It's got to the point where I almost want the World Cup Final to be decided by, say, a goal that was clearly offside (or conversely a wrongly disallowed goal), or a penalty given erroneously for a clear dive, or another Henry-esque moment, so at last Blatter can be run out of town and football can join the twenty-first century.

Hmm, that rant went on for longer than I expected. Therefore I shall leave moaning about everything else for another time. Except for the vuvuzuela, as I have to mention them again. They truly, truly, suck.


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