Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
And now, Sepp Blatter says ...
by Paul Gardner, January 26th, 2010 11:44PM
Subscribe to SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner



By Paul Gardner

You never really hear much from the guys at FIFA. I don't mean President Sepp Blatter -- we hear from him all the time. But the other top guys -- like the members of the Executive Committee -- don't they ever have anything original, or even faintly controversial to say?

Not too often. Last year, Concacaf's Chuck Blazer raised a few eyebrows when he publicly disagreed with Blatter -- because disagreeing with Blatter is a rare occurrence. That is the way it is with FIFA Presidents these days. The tone was set by Blatter's predecessor, Joao Havelange, who ruled with an iron fist and a withering glance, and woe betide anyone who got in the path of either of those attributes.

Blatter works rather differently. His demeanor is less intimidating -- but every bit as powerful and coercive as Havelange's. What Blatter wants, Blatter will get. The head of FIFA these days is truly all-powerful.

A situation that is bound to encourage sycophancy. Mirroring  the President's views becomes the name of the game for those who surround Blatter -- not only the ExCo, but the paid staff members who run FIFA operations in Zurich.

And agreeing with Blatter must be a mighty difficult undertaking, because Blatter is a man given to sudden dizzying changes of mind.

Those who keep track of Blatter as he dashes around visiting the world's capital cities, will have noticed how his speeches -- lately they've been about who should host future World Cups -- bend in the political breeze. When he's in London, then England should get the World Cup; when he visits Australia, why the Aussies, surely, deserve the World Cup; when it's Moscow, then Blatter has "an affinity" for their World Cup bid. And so it goes.

But there's always been one safe bet. For years now, it has been safe to assume that one sure way to please Blatter is to affirm that video replays are the worst possible thing that could ever happen to soccer, and that they will never, ever, be permitted to besmirch the game. Blatter had made this very clear, repeatedly, and heatedly. For instance:

* June 27, 2002: Speaking three days before the World Cup final in Yokohama, Blatter assured everyone that "As long as I am president, I will make sure that no technical help will be introduced in refereeing ... to introduce technical items -- no. This will destroy an essential element of our game -- the emotion."

* April 27, 2004: During a visit to Berlin, Blatter imposed a lifetime ban on video replays: "As long as I live there will be no technical help."

* Feb. 12, 2005: During a workshop for World Cup referees in Frankfurt, Blatter again said no: "As long as I am FIFA president, there will be no video evidence."

* Dec.17, 2009: Only just over a month ago, Blatter -- sounding somewhat embattled -- announced that "Referees shall remain human, and we will not have monitors to stop the game to see if we are right or wrong. Please don't insist on this theme."

But the theme will not die down -- particularly not after the notorious Thierry Henry hand-ball incident. And now, this past weekend, Blatter has performed a most violent U-turn, one that must have left his supporters in some bewilderment. Just listen to what he told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick about goal-line cameras (with their replays): "I'm not absolutely against it. If the technology is ready to adopt, then I am in agreement. If the security of the system is guaranteed then we will introduce it."

So all those cries of Never! Never! can now be erased from the record. Sepp Blatter is now open to video replays.

Yet ... why am I not surprised at this vertiginous rethink? Firstly because, despite Blatter's outcries, he has allowed FIFA to experiment with various technologies designed to produce a "smart ball" that would send signals to someone, somewhere, whenever it entered the goal. Secondly, because of the aforementioned tendency of Blatter to shift his positions with great facility. And thirdly because this position, this mulish, ostrich-like opposition (sorry about the mixed animals there) to video replays has always been the most stupid and the least defensible of Blatter's peeves.

In March, the International Football Association Board will study the use of goal-line cameras, which would greatly reduce the possibility of goals being wrongly awarded or denied. The cameras would also, presumably, make incidents like Henry's hand-ball infraction less likely to go unspotted.

Of course it will work. TV companies have been using such cameras for a decade or more, instantly letting the whole world see what the referee has missed. This is what makes Blatter's proviso "if the technology is ready ..." so ridiculous. The technology has been ready for years.

It won't be perfect, there'll still be the occasional case that defies judgment. But if we wait for perfection, we'll still be quibbling when doomsday descends upon us.


  1. Austin Gomez
    commented on: January 27, 2010 at 2:53 p.m.
    If professionally correct 'Technology' truly means that the Decisions of the Referee Team will be proper/correct (whenever there are vitally UNSEEN controversial decisions, contested only on most important "Moment-of-Truths" scenarios in the Game, which may change the entire complexion of the Game itself due to its obvious 'wrongness'), then the "Get-it-Right" philosophy must be strictly adhered to: "RIGHT ON!.....................LEFT OFF," as they say around the entire world! If video Technology will assist, (quickly & accurately & instantly), then why not avail of the usage of this modern "Tools-of-the-Trade" device. Remember the Game of Futbol is: For the GAME, for the WORLD! in my opinion, thank you!

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
Carlos Alberto: One of Soccer's Greatest (1944-2016)    
Carlos Alberto, one of the sport's true greats, dead at 72. Unexpected, almost unbelievable. For me, ...
The Mauro Diaz tragedy: MLS at fault    
So we've seen the last of Mauro Diaz for this season. He will not be part ...
Another over-hyped game turns into an unwatchable 0-0 bore-draw    
You will have been aware of the recent game between Liverpool and Manchester United. Won't you ...
The Maturing of Wayne Rooney    
Wayne Rooney's career is coming to a close. Which seems ridiculous, given that my memory informs ...
Big Sam's Big Fall     
Poor Sam Allardyce. Well, maybe. Depends how you see things. Not long ago, Allardyce was one ...
De Jong's barren MLS stint helps debunk the holding-midfielder myth    
Holding midfielder. Defensive midfielder. Are they the same animal? I'm not sure. And frankly, I don't ...
Jordan Morris: ruthless enough to be a great goalscorer?     
The pitiful lack of clarity that infests English-language soccer terminology was intriguingly exposed in Taylor Twellman's ...
The truly Greek Olympic final: Apollo vs. Dionysus     
So the men's Olympic final comes down to this: Apollo vs. Dionysus. Apollo, god of reason ...
Under-17 age cheating and FIFA's mysterious MRI tests    
FIFA's Under-17 World Cup -- for me, the liveliest and the most enjoyable of all the ...
Olympians bring back soccer with a smile, Brazilian soccer    
Watching Brazil toy with Denmark was quite like old times. Not so old, of course -- ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives