Opinion: The State of our Game

 
 

Last night’s play-off result was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Ciarán Ó Braonáin who describes his disillusion with the so-called Beautiful Game…

Harold Marchetti of French paper Le Parisien was right when he predicted last night’s World Cup play-off between France and Ireland would be “a game of truth”. Sadly the truth that was revealed was the desperate state of the game. Ireland’s play-off defeat to France highlighted the three cancers which have enveloped world football, and look set to kill the game as we know it.

henryThough these malignant elements have already been diagnosed, nothing has been done about them and some might argue that it is already too late as last night’s game sounded the death knell for the once beautiful game. The three cancers I speak of are, of course: cheating by players, a refusal to implement video technology and, most significantly, FIFA’s corrupt priorities.

People have spoken since of the incident of Henry’s handball as if it were something out of the ordinary. It is no secret in the footballing world that Thierry Henry is a notorious cheat, something that is most evident in his penchant for diving. It wasn’t even the first time in that match where he could be seen attempting to con the referee.

That said, It would be unfair to single out Henry for this as it is something that is rife within the game especially, it would seem, amongst its biggest players. We need look no further than the world’s most expensive footballer for proof of this.

FIFA and UEFA’s unflinching refusal to accept the necessity of video technology must now be recognised for the farce that it is. What are the arguments against it? What possible grounds are there for justifying its omission? From Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’, to Tottenham’s goal that never was at Old Trafford, to more recent examples in the Championship. Surely by now there have been enough high-profile examples of why video technology is needed.

The use of video refereeing in rugby, tennis, American football and countless other sports has improved those games to no end. On a side note, I think it is worth pointing out that, given UEFA’s previous post-game investigations of ‘cheating’ by players, through the medium of video replays it would (or should I say ‘will’) add even more insult to injury should FIFA not investigate the French goal incident, especially since Henry has openly admitted to using his hand. A little consistency would be nice.

The most appalling thing about the whole play-off fiasco was FIFA’s moving of the goalposts in deciding to seed the draw at the last minute. A more flagrant disregard for fair play has never been seen. Surely all teams who made it through the already seeded groups should have been given the respect that their achievements merited.

Alas, it seems as if FIFA did not want Europe’s best teams to qualify, simply Europe’s biggest and most commercially viable teams. Maybe next time they could spare us the formality of a qualification campaign and simply make the World Cup invitation only.

We cannot ignore the outrageous hypocrisy of Michel Platini who professed to being the champion of smaller nations where the Champions League was concerned. Yet fully backed the decision to seed the play-offs when it looked as though the traditional powers of world football might not make it.

To be fair to FIFA it did look at one stage as if Messi, Ronaldo and Henry might not be appearing in South Africa – can you imagine how upset FIFA’s friends at Adidas and Nike would have been had their players not been on show?

At the end of the day FIFA got their men to their World Cup. They have their stars in Henry and Ronaldo, those who they see as embodying what the game is all about. They can keep their stars, their lack of honour, their backward ways and their hypocrisy. Stuff your World Cup. I, for one, have fallen out of love with this game.

Advertisements