Blatter and his blather

After an insipid display in Copenhagen, Greece’s victory over Georgia on Wednesday wasn’t enough to earn them a playoff place. I watched that game, then switched over to Alfa for France vs. Cyprus.

I watched along with some 80 000 Frenchmen packed inside the Stade de France as Zidane left even the away players amazed with his trickery and magic. I watched as the goals flowed in as the Cypriot defence was breached time and time again, with France scoring three goals before half time- it could have been six. I watched as France carved chance upon chance, as the bedraggled Cypriot keeper parried, blocked and punched every other chance away.

At one point between goals number two and three, after Morphis had blocked Cisse’s shot from close range (Cisse’s second dreadful miss of the night), the keeper walked up to the French striker and patted him on the back as if to say ”maybe next time”.


Cisse actually had a shocker of a game. But it made no difference. The French were on their way to the World Cup. The Cypriots, after an eighth defeat in ten games, were on their way home to lick their wounds. Well, at least we beat the Faroe Islands.


But the most interesting footballing tidbit of this international week came not from Europe but from Asia. One must pity poor World Cup hopefuls Uzbekistan. A good performance last month against Bahrain resulted in a 1-0 victory, despite a bizarre error by Japanese referee Toshimitsu Yoshida, who denied Uzbekistan a penalty retake they were entitled to.


The Uzbekistan FA were not amused, but a 1-0 victory was more than acceptable. However, they asked FIFA to assign a non-Asian for their next group game. FIFA agreed and decided to suspend Yoshida and then, in all their wisdom (and I am of course being ironic here) declared the match null and void and ordered a replay. Bahrain, happy to be given another chance, duly scored early in the replay and Uzbekistan struggled to come out with a 1-1 draw.


Ultimately the replay proved very costly for Uzbekistan, as they drew the second leg of the tie 0-0 and Bahrain went though on away goals. They will face Trinidad and Tobago in a two legged playoff which will decide who qualifies for the tournament. Guess who I’m rooting for…


FIFA President Sepp Blatter (who is said to have 50 ideas a day, and 51 of them are bad) was perhaps not the one to suggest the replay, but he defended FIFA’s decision. However, here are some fine suggestions he has come up with. The list is by no means exhaustive:


·         Blatter would like to scrap draws, ensuring that a winner emerges from every game, either by requiring penalties or by forcing players to fight to the death. Actually, the latter is not one of his ideas, although I’m sure it will be soon.


·         He has persisted with the biannual Confederations’ Cup, despite growing evidence that nobody really cares about it much, and despite Marc-Viven Foe dying on the pitch during a Cup game in 2003.


·         He suggested that women’s football can only be made to attract more spectators by dressing the girls up in skimpy clothes.


·         He introduced the hugely successful World Club Championship held in Brazil in 2000. It was, in fact, so successful that it hasn’t been held since and nobody has questioned why.


·         Also, Blatter would like to expand the World Cup to include more teams, and therefore, more games, and to force national sides to take meangless friendlies more seriously. Fifty or sixty games a season isn’t enough for players. I suspect Blatter would like to see footballers playing every other day, regardless of how many drop dead on the pitch. Make them earn their pay!


·         He wants to change the offside law. Again.


Blatter hopes to be re-elected for a third term in 2007. Apparently his best ideas are still to come.


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