While Lionel Messi deservedly won FIFA's Player of the Year Award for 2009, the real story from the star-studded Gala in Zurich was the FAI's refusal to accept a highly patronizing Fair Play Award.
"I think the way the president of FIFA behaved was an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to FIFA. There is an awards ceremony and they have offered us a Fair Play award. We've respectfully declined." said a dignified John Delaney, President of the FAI.
Ireland was knocked out of the World Cup at the European Playoff stage. They had been controversially beaten by France in Paris, after Thierry Henry handled the ball before setting William Gallas up to score the winner.
The handball was a blatant act of cheating by one of the world's most renowned players. Both the referee and the linesman missed the incident, even though the referee's assistant had a clear view of the incident.
France's progress to South Africa and Henry's act became worldwide news and at one stage it almost looked as if the match was going to be replayed after the huge furor.
From the outset, FIFA refused the FAI's request for a replay so the Irish association turned it's attention towards the only avenue left and appealed to the French Football Federation's sense of honor, inevitably the invitation was met with deaf ears.
With the furor showing no sign of abating as every media outlet in the world had their say, FIFA then fudged the entire incident by refusing the FAI's requests for replays to be used in incidents of high controversy.
FIFA dismissed the request, but then said they would consider using four referees, as used in the Europa Cup. But two days later this was also rejected.
With FIFA refusing to act on the incident in any way, the FAI made a formal request to Sepp Blatter, FIFA's President, for Ireland to be allowed to participate as the 33rd team in the 32 team tournament in South Africa.
The move was never designed to get Ireland into the World Cup, rather, it was designed for the topic to be used as a discussion for the FIFA board in an attempt to raise the issue of cheating and video replay.
However, a few days before the FIFA governing body were due to sit, Blatter ridiculed the FAI in a press conference to promote the new Adidas football that will be used in South Africa.
Holding the ball, Blatter said, "I mustn't handle the ball, you cannot handle the ball." Then in another press conference, he made fun of the FAI by announcing publicly that the FAI had requested to be named as the 33rd team while laughing.
Again the world's media sided with the FAI over Blatter's behaviour, even though many felt the request was foolish.
A couple of days later Blatter announced to the world that the FAI would receive a gift from FIFA that would not be monetary in value but would be of great significance to the game, he also apologised to the FAI over his behaviour.
Today's half hearted effort by FIFA to give Ireland the FIFA Fair Play Award is one of the most condescending acts ever perpetrated by the world's governing body.
It is a cowardly, insulting, self-serving act by Blatter to make himself look good in the eyes of the world with the tournament in South Africa just around the corner. His character has always been questioned, and that will only intensify after his actions over the past couple of months.
FIFA's credo is Fair Play, but yet they have failed to act in any way over the Henry incident. Not even a statement acknowledging the Barcelona player's act of cowardice.
Over the last number of years, cheating has seeped into the game at it's very core and FIFA have refused to act on a game that has evolved very little over the past 100 years.
While other sports have embraced technology and other means to stamp out cheating, FIFA have yet to act...
"With applause continuing to ripple around the hall, The Harlem Gospel Singers reappeared to sing a song of farewell as the evening’s prizewinners gathered around a beaming Messi. Rising to their feet, the audience then gave the galaxy of stars lighting up the stage a deserved standing ovation, setting the seal on a quite exceptional night." —FIFA.com
Unfortunately, there was no real Fair Play Award winner this year, as it seems FIFA just does not believe in it any more.
This article can also be read at Premier League Report
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