During last summer’s World Cup, I wrote a magazine article in which I described Sepp Blatter, the most powerful administrator in world soccer, as ''an ageing plonker''. I now accept that the FIFA chairman is not ageing. He’s decrepit.
Indeed, he is so far past his sell-by date that I suggest his native Switzerland considers putting him out of his misery. Euthanasia is perfectly legal there, after all.
Now I love football but, like just about every fan in the world, I think its administrators are in another world when it comes to moving into the 21st century.
Soccer is the world’s most popular game with billions of fans and ludicrous amounts of money passing through its coffers. Yet while other major sports like tennis, rugby, American Football and cricket have long since been using modern technology to adjudicate controversial moments, the Methuselahs who orchestrate the game’s structure continue to insist that decisions must be left entirely to the human eye.
Even if those decisions are patently wrong and unfair, as they often are.
Take England’s disallowed goal against Germany, for instance. Frank Lampard’s rocket shot bounced down off the crossbar at least a yard over the line and then came out of the goal—and the referee and linesman were seemingly the only two people in the stadium who failed to spot it.
The German goalkeeper knew it was a goal, of course. But since honesty is the last thing one expects from professional footballers (we won’t mention being faithful to their wives), there was no way he was going to tell the referee. Let’s face it, England would have done exactly the same had it been the Germans who scored, so dishonours even there.
However, had the referee merely been allowed to consult a video replay, as are officials in other major sports, justice would have prevailed. As it was, nobody knows what might have happened had England been level at 2-2 at halftime rather than 2-1 behind. Why, they might even have won (well, in my dreams).
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a player or manager speak AGAINST the use of video playbacks to confirm or over-rule controversial refereeing decisions. And the argument that the delay would detract from the game has long since been shot down by the evidence of other sports. In rugby and cricket, for example, the anxious wait for decisions like "not out" or "no try" to appear on the screen invariably ADDS to the excitement rather than detracts from it.
Yet Blatter and his fellow FIFA duffers have consistently resisted calls for any sort of technology. And that has inevitably led to people like myself asking "Why?"
In the absence of a logical reason, I can’t help pondering the recent corruption allegations over FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
Now I am well aware of the laws of libel, so I am not saying someone is bribing Sepp and his sidekicks NOT to say yes to the technology companies. But it makes you wonder, particularly as Blatter’s election in 1998 was later sullied by allegations that an African federation official had been offered a 100,000 dollar bribe to vote for him.
Certainly, Blatter’s logic seems to be at variance with the entire population of the world. Apart, perhaps, from his cronies in Geneva, all of whom are presumably blokes. And that brings me to another negative aspect of the man’s background.
Seedy Sepp does not seem to hold women very high in his esteem. Indeed, he seems to see us merely as sex objects. According to Wikipedia, in the early 1970s he was elected president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organisation which tried to stop women wearing tights instead of stockings and suspender belts.
Then, in 2004, he angered female footballers when he suggested that women should "wear tighter shorts and low-cut shirts... to create a more female aesthetic" and attract more male fans.
I’ve got news for Mr Blatter. If he spent more time sorting out football’s injustices and less on ogling the girls, then it might start living up to its billing as "the beautiful game".
He could start by introducing a law that works wonderfully well in rugby and ensures that cheats who illegally prevent a certain score don’t prosper. In such circumstances, referees can award a ‘‘penalty try’’—yet in football, the worst a team can suffer is a red card for the offender and a penalty kick for the cheated side.
When a Uruguay player prevented Ghana winning their World Cup tie by deliberately stopping a goal-bound shot with his hand, the correct decision should have been "goal"— even though the ball did not cross the goal line. The incident happened at the very end of extra time, so the red card did not help Ghana in any way.
And when they missed the resultant penalty kick, any advantage was completely wiped out.
Uruguay celebrated their reprieve by winning the penalty shootout that followed and Africa’s last representatives in the tournament were on their way home when in the eyes of every fair-minded person they were really the victors. But the concept of introducing a "penalty goal" award to foil the cheats has probably never crossed Mr Blatter’s mind.
Ghana did not get justice, they were robbed because the laws are an ass. It’s the sort of thing that makes football appear even more stupid than the heads-in-the-sand brigade who run (or should that be ruin?) the game.
So how is football ever going to be dragged into the 21st century? Maybe we should offer sleazy Sepp an inducement to hand the whole caboodle over to us girls. Then we could sort it all out in no time and let him concentrate on whatever else he does for kicks.