Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Don't bother with Fair Play -- just pay the fines
by Paul Gardner, August 4th, 2010 1:15AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  fifa, netherlands, spain, world cup

MOST COMMENTED

By Paul Gardner

Images of the recent World Cup final linger on in my mind. Andres Iniesta's goal, of course, now made more lustrous by knowledge we could not have at the time, that this was the winning goal.

But beyond that ... what else is there that remains from that game, that climactic game, that should have been one of soccer’s great festive occasions.

Little that was worthy, I fear. My memories come unbidden, I am not looking for anything in particular ... but the memories are of violent play, of rough tackling, of reckless challenges, and, of course, of an embattled referee, Howard Webb, doing his best to cope with the havoc.

This was supposed to be a showcase game. Surely, we should be able to rely on the World Cup final displaying our sport at its best? Or if not that, then even more certainly, we have the right to expect that this very special occasion will not turn into an exhibition of the sport at its worst.

Sadly, we got the worst. Thanks to the Dutch, who chose to besmirch this gala occasion with ... well, it’s not necessary for me to describe the way they played, I’ll let you listen to the greatest of Dutch soccer players, Johan Cruyff: "Sadly, they played very dirty ... This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style ...”

There is a wonderful, almost choking, incoherence to that exasperated cri de coeur as Cruyff barely controls his disgust at what he had seen.

That was spoken in the heat of the immediate post-game period. Maybe Cruyff would be less hard on his compatriots now, but I hope not. His first reaction was surely the right one. The way the Dutch played was a disgrace.

What the Dutch got away with was, in soccer terms, pretty close to murder. The murder of the sport. There can be no excuses. Their approach comes over as entirely premeditated. The fouling started in the first minute of the game, it cannot be mitigated as a response to anything that the Spanish were doing.

But the Spanish were inevitably drawn into the fray, and we got what must surely go down as the nastiest World Cup final ever. Just three days earlier FIFA President Sepp Blatter had commented on what he saw as commendable fair play at the tournament: “There have been fewer yellow and red cards, the players have been respectful to their opponents.”

Then, having sat through a final that was the very negation of fair play, Blatter dodged the issue and simply refused to face the facts: “I will not make any comment but we always say football is school of life because it is based on discipline and respect. It’s a combat game but in the spirit of fair play. You have to learn to win and you have to learn to lose, and should not forget the basis which is discipline and respect.”

That is sheer persiflage, it tells us nothing, but that is hardly surprising, for Blatter, when asked directly about the violence, refused to comment, and gave his reasoning: “Even though I have seen all the irregularities as a spectator, I cannot answer this question as president of FIFA. I could answer it as a fan of football but I am here as president.”

An extraordinary statement, one that confirms that Blatter now sees his role as that of a superior being, no longer able to take a realistic look at the sport, no longer able to see it as the fans see it. This is a huge mistake. On occasions such as this, when the sport has been led woefully astray, who else but the FIFA president should speak out, loudly and clearly, against the transgression? What kind of a president is it who watches for two hours as his sport is dragged through the mire and then says that it is precisely his position as president that prevents him from condemning it?

A diplomatic one, for sure, and that is further evidence that Blatter has promoted himself to the role of a World Leader who cannot soil his hands with mundane difficulties.

This blindness is bad enough, but things get worse, because FIFA has now announced that it has punished the two finalists by imposing fines.

The Dutch have been fined 15,000 Euros ($14,400), the Spanish 10,000 Euros ($9,600). And the Dutch actually get off lighter than Spain -- they’ve been fined $1,600 per card, while the Spanish are coughing up $1,900. Not that anyone will even notice, because these fines are, of course, pathetic, obscenely pathetic. To set them in perspective, all you need to know is that the Spanish soccer federation has promised bonuses, reported to be $734,000 to each player.

This attempt to put a moral matter right by monetary means is distasteful in the extreme, the final squalid touch to a thoroughly sordid episode. The Dutch deserve a much more severe punishment than a mere $14,400 slap on the wrist. They have tarnished the sport, made a mockery of what ought to be one of its most noble occasions.

But the president of FIFA cannot comment on it, cannot take any action ... because he is the president. Some president.



0 comments
  1. Gene Jay
    commented on: August 4, 2010 at 8:37 a.m.
    Yeah, the finals sucked. Everyone knows it. Didn't read this entire article because I moved on weeks ago. On to Henry in the MLS, and getting psyched for EPL, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, et al. I think you will find, Mr. Gardner, everyone else has moved on too. Your story seems to be about the fines and a few digs at the president of FIFA. We still don't care, and have moved on already! Given your propensity to re-live it, I am sort of under the impression you actually loved the finals--because it gives you something nasty to write about.

  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: August 4, 2010 at 9:28 a.m.
    I think the real issue here is why haven't the ref's been fined for all the bad calls. Blatter is the real culprit here, protecting the ref's from relegation due to the bad calls which still will continue unless something is done by FIFA!

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: August 4, 2010 at 10:43 a.m.
    Congratulation, Paul, on being awarded the 2010 Colin Jose Media Award by the National Soccer Hall of Fame. You deserve it.

  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: August 4, 2010 at 11:25 a.m.
    Slather Blather (as he is referred to here)is the major problem with dirty play and bad refereeing in world soccer. His egomaniac driven personality prevents him from seeing anything approaching reality in the sport. A man who has said that, "FIFA is more important than the U.N." is not emotionally fit enough to lead FIFA.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: August 4, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.
    Sixteen years ago I had the opportunity of translating for both Messrs. Havelange and Blatter. At that time, Havelange commanded some high falutin' respect while Mr. Blatter was his second in command. However, since Blatter assumed the FIFA crown, I've grown disappointed in his pronouncements, and I commend Paul for his article, especially this one. Surely it is perhaps time for him to step down much like his predecessor did - 'tho Havelange also had his moments - Blatter needs to reassess his position (or should it be FIFA's Board of Directors job to do so but then again have they become mere Blatter satraps protecting their own?) And so, the beat goes on Blatter style.

  1. Brian Something
    commented on: August 5, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.
    "now made more lustrous by knowledge we could not have at the time, that this was the winning goal." But we did. By that point in the match, the Dutch were never in any danger of causing Iker Casillas to break a sweat. The fine structure is even more ridiculous when you consider that of Spain's four cards, one of them was for time wasting and one was for taking a jersey off after scoring... neither of which was anything like the assaults committed by de Jong and van Bommell.


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




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
How I referee Garber vs. Klinsmann    
That MLS Commissioner Don Garber should be upset by Jurgen Klinsmann's thoughtless and really rather peevish ...
To Landon Donovan: Ave atque Vale!     
So Landon Donovan has had his special day ... and I cannot think of anyone involved ...
The Need for a Holistic Approach to Soccer    
One of the stranger things about soccer is that it is rarely, if ever, considered as ...
England -- belatedly and hesitantly -- begins to accept Latin talent     
LONDON -- Change -- important, fundamental change -- seems to be arriving at last in English ...
Tactical fouls and studs-up tackles dangerously overshadowed by diving hysteria    
LONDON -- This fatuous business of turning simulation, or diving, into the worst crime that a ...
Magath's cheese poultice -- maybe not so whacky as it sounds    
LONDON -- There's not much to be said -- well, nothing good -- about the short ...
Coaches, Doctors or Refs: Who to trust with players' health?    
LONDON -- You may have noticed that Jose Mourinho has plenty to say. You may also ...
Mad Dog and Fighting Pig find home in MLS -- in a good way, of course    
Hard on the heels (and that phrase may soon acquire literal meaning) of the arrival of ...
Mystery surrounds Hugo Perez's USSF status    
A strange business, this Hugo Perez affair. He is no longer the coach of the U.S. ...
Toronto's Comedy of Errors Not That Funny    
What is the appropriate response to the Great Purge in Toronto? Does one weep for an ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives