Thoughts from Blog-ingham

Don’t hate the player, hate the game

Posted in Current Affairs, Football, sport by adamellis1985 on November 19, 2009

So, France are going to the World Cup. Keane and co can begin booking their summer holidays for 2010, as they are not going anywhere. The Football Association of Ireland has lodged a complaint with FIFA asking for their World Cup play-off against France to be replayed. Good luck getting Michele Platini to sign that one off! Ireland are out though. That is final. The result says so. And FIFA will not intervene and reverse the result or call for a replay.

In case you haven’t already heard, Thierry Henry broke Irish fans hearts’ last night by scoring in extra time to send France to the 2010 World Cup. As if there hadn’t been enough injustice in the lead up to the World Cup playoffs with the seedings debacle, Ireland were outdone after being arguably the strongest team in their two legged playoff match with France. They battled for 180 minutes across and after being beaten in Ireland showed tremendous courage in beating France 1-0 in Paris to force extra time.

Step up on Monsieur Henry. A double handball hand ball later in the penalty area and a pass to William Gallas who put the ball into an empty net sent Les Blues through 2-1 on aggregate. Irish protestations obviously followed but nothing came of it. A referee never changes his decision. In a statement today, football’s world governing body said: “As stated in Law 5 of the Laws of the Game, and also in Article 13, paragraph 6 of the Regulations of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, ‘no protests may be made about the referee’s decisions regarding facts connected with play. Such decisions are final, unless otherwise stipulated in the Fifa Disciplinary Code.'”

The media reaction and the reaction in Ireland has been phenomenal. A sense of injustice is being felt and the arguments will ramble on all the way to South Africa next summer where the finals are being held. The Irish FA and even the Irish government (who have been heavily involved today) should ask themselves what they would have made of it Robbie Keane scoring a similar goal at the other end of the stadium to take Ireland to the World Cup? Robbie Keane would not have turned round and told the referee he had handled the ball and there should be no goal. This simply does not happen. Football begins as a level playing field each match and some decisions will go with and some will go against your team. Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland’s manger is hugely experienced and knows very well that if it had been the other way round that he would have thought it was hard luck the French but there is nothing that can be done. Trapattoni is a realist and said after the game, he does not expect a replay. “When a referee decides a game has finished I know it is impossible to replay the game,” said the Italian.

Some pundits, like Tony Cascorino, a former Republic of Ireland international have suggested that Henry should have done the gentlemanly thing and owned up to the referee that he had controlled the ball with his hand. This is ludicrous. We cannot get to the stage where players have the power to overturn referees decisions even for the better. Self regulation of a football match by players will lead to chaos and the referee will not have a clue what is going on (which by the way is often the situation now anyway) It would be a case of the lunatics running the asylum. Not all players will own up to the referee on diving or handling the ball, some might but others (most) won’t.

But can we follow Cascorino’s train of thought and blame Thierry Henry for not owning up to his indiscretion? The simple answer is no. If Ireland’s talismanic striker Robbie Keane had scored in similar fashion at the other end, he would have run off towards the Irish fans and done his trademark cart wheel in celebration at the thought of playing on the world’s biggest stage next summer and being the Irish hero who had sent them there. The Irish FA have cleverly introduced mind games by lavishing praise on Henry’s talents as a footballer before pointing out that his legacy will be tainted with this scandal. But it won’t, as Henry is protected by the fact that the decision was not his to make. Henry knows he hand balled it but jurisdiction for this decision was not his. It was the match officials’ choice and that is where the buck stops; unfortunately for the Irish fans.

Henry obviously did something wrong if he deliberately handled the ball and deceived the referee. This is cheating. But the simple way to eradicate this is to introduce technology to stop it. These things happen in sport and they will happen again. It goes back to the famous 1966 World Cup Final where England benefited from a dodgy Russian linesman. What would have happened in 1986 if one Diego Maradona had so, ‘oh hang on a sec, I didn’t head that in, I used my fist.’ England may have won the 1986 World Cup. But Maradona was never going to own up to it in the same way Henry wasn’t going to. The stakes were too high. Whether they should have owned up could take another entire blog post. But it is Football as a sport that is in the wrong by remaining in the dark ages of technology. Other sports have demonstrated how easy it is to incorporate technology that aids the fair outcome of a sporting tussle. Look at how hawk eye has been introduced into Tennis Grand Slams. Video replay technology has been introduced into international Rugby for try decisions and is used in Cricket to decide on run outs. Football is big business and the amount of money the Irish FA are going to lose out on in sponsorships and endorsements is huge considering how easy it would have been to ensure they had a fair chance of realising their World Cup pot of gold dream.

The game last night is undoubtedly more evidence for the need for technology to aid the match officials for goal line decisions or penalty area decisions but not all over the pitch. It won’t spoil the game and will vastly improve it. Had it been introduced this year and France were beaten on penalties, Monsieur Henry may well be at home now flicking through holiday brochures for next summer as he wouldn’t be going to South Africa.

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Goodbye Sir Bobby – Where is Sport without people like you?

Posted in Current Affairs, Football, People, sport, Uncategorized by adamellis1985 on September 22, 2009

Yesterday, friends, family and colleagues gathered at Durham Cathedral to pay their last respects to a sporting legend. Sir Bobby Robson died 31st July, aged 76 after losing his fifth battle against cancer. It was fitting that it took place in Durham, the heartland of Robson’s beloved North East where he grew up and close to Newcastle United where he enjoyed a successful managerial spell around 10 years ago. Sir Bobby was a football icon, playing for England in a successful playing career before managing some of the biggest clubs in the world including Barcelona and nurturing the talent of household names, such as Romario, Ronaldo and Alan Shearer. Robson was not only a footballer’s man but he was also a gentleman and a fair man.

Sir Bobby Robson (1933-2009)

Sir Bobby Robson (1933-2009)

Robson’s achievements in football included winning European trophies with Ipswich Town and taking England to the semi finals of Italia 90 and a posts width away from a place in the World Cup Final. He also won numerous competitions with Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Porto. He was an early mentor to one Jose Mourinho at Barcelona as well. But his efforts stretched beyond sport where he used his high profile status in his great efforts in raising money for cancer and the Cancer Trials Research Centre he helped set up at Newcastle’s Freeman hospital. Once he had to give up football coaching he set himself another stretching target, which was target of raising £1.5m for the new unit, and reached that sum in eight weeks. We need more Robson’s in the world.

In the summer when a great sporting man died, sport has been dragged through the mud yet again with scandal after scandal. The early summer saw 1980’s football hooliganism return in the shape of rioting Millwall and West Ham fans in a Carling Cup match at Upton Park. The pitch was invaded four times and outside the ground was a scene reminiscent of an evening out in downtown Baghdad. A great image for our bid to host the 2018 world cup and for onlookers seeing how we are preparing for the 2012 Olympics. Then just in the last week, Manchester City have been embroiled by disciplinary issues. Firstly Emmanuel Adebayor playing aginst his old club Arsenal put the boot in, quite literally.

Adebayor stamped on Robin Van Persie’s face and could have blinded him. I suspect Robson would have had a thing or two to say to Adebayor in the dressing room, which would have been a little firmer than Mark Hughes’ pathetic defense. Hughes said I looked him in the eyes and asked him if the did it on purpose? He said he didn’t and I believe him. Come on now Mark, is he really going to tell you he was trying to re arrange his face because he hated his ex-teamate?! Robson would most likely have apologised to the fans and put Adebayor on the transfer list. You only have to cast your mind back to what he thought of Craig Bellamy and Kieron Dyer fighting each other on the pitch when they were teammates. Robson’s eventual efforts to get Dyer out of the club led to a fans backlach against him, however, it was the right thing to do. Hughes and Adebyaor have let themselves and the fans down. Then in the Manchester derby just this weekend, a Manchesater United fan ran onto the pitch to celebrate a goal with the players (which he must have thought was allowed or have been blind drunk or both) and Carig Bellamy (him again) slapped the fan in the face.

But these issues of bad sporting etiquette extend beyond Robson’s realm of football. I wonder what Robson would have thought of Falvio Briatore’s diretive to Nelson Piquet to deliberately crash his Formula 1 multi million pound car into a wall so his teammate could win the race? Don’t forget that Briatore is also asscoiated with football in his capacity as a director at Queens Park Rangers. Not for long I suspect.

What Reanult did wasn’t just playing hard and doing everything you can to win. This is plain cheating. There is no two ways about it. And how do the FIA try to uphold sporting and fair play standards? By giving Renault a suspended two year ban. Yeah that’s a real deterrent. Great job.

And then there is the gentlemen’s game and a real man’s game that is Rugby Union. But what would Robson have made of Dean Richards instructions to wing Tom Williams during the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster in April to fake a blood injury while he was in charge at Harelquins? Richards asked one of his players to bite down on a blood capsule so that he could leave the field and they could make a subsitution that would have otherwise not been allowed to get a kicker on in the final minutes of the game? Can’t imagine Robson would have thought much of that. Real blood injuries…fine…man up and get on with it if you can. I’m not sure Robson could have even fathomed what a calculated, deliberate fake blood injury could even be.

The point is that we need influential people like Robson at the top of the sporting game and with the ability to influence and uphold the standards to keep sport moving in the right direction. We need less Adebayors and Briatores and more Robsons. Sport shames itself week in week out across Football, Rugby, Formula 1 and even Tennis. But it is how people are punished and how sport learns from its mistakes as a community that we will move on from these issues. Overturning Eduardo’s ban for blatent diving because FIFA are scared of Arsenal’s mite in world football does not send the right messages to the grass roots of the game and it’s not the way to go. Sporting associations need to take more of a stand against violence, corruption and cheating in sport. It would be easy to stamp out (no Adebayor pun intended) all the issues mentioned above. Fine Renault £1 million and ban them from competing for a few races. Then see if one of their drivers ever miraculously drives into a wall again. Ban Adebayor and arrest him for assault and fine Manchester City an exhorbitant amount of money (they can afford it). Otherwise in fifty years time there will be no more memorial services to celebrate the lives of sporting legends and people like Sir Bobby Robson.