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Cheating Tarnishes FIFA World Cup

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

We are not even out of pool play yet and the scourge of cheating has already taken some of the gloss of the shiny FIFA World Cup Trophy. In the latest two games a courageous New Zealand outfit were given a master class by the Italians and Brazil and Cote d’Ivoire took football gamesmanship to another level.

I guess the New Zealanders could be labelled naïve and as some commentators put it the Italians were professional. But when being ‘professional’ means milking a soft yellow card from Kiwi striker Rory Fallon then spending the next 20 minutes launching themselves at his arms before collapsing in a heap trying to get him a second yellow card then I prefer naïve any day.
As far as the Italian equalising penalty goes, if a defender gives an attacker a tug on his shirt then he is opening up to disaster. In this case Smith had let go well before De Rossi dived and the ball was sailing harmlessly high over everyone’s head. None the less our friendly Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres saw it as a crime worthy of a penalty and card. We should be thankful he showed clemency and made it only a yellow.
It is interesting that football website have this statement about our friend Carlos:
“we have over 2500 referees in our database and not many have such a staggering high average of 5 cards per match as Batres. In an international match with Batres in charge a team has an almost 70% chance of losing a player (well, divided in half of course, since there are two teams...)”.
It is no wonder that New Zealand Manager Ricky Herbert whipped Rory Fallon off soon after half time. It was only going to end one way with ‘Cards Carlos’ on the job.
There were enough miracles happening out there on the pitch for the entire Italian medical team to be fast tracked to sainthood. The body count was rising faster than a splatter horror flick with many Azzuri clinging to life by a thread. Still every one of them was brought back to life by the laying on of hands and some magic words from the medics. Dying one moment and bouncing around like spring lambs the next.
In fact it is the New Zealanders who should be accused of unfair tactics because Rory Fallon and Chris Killen were clearly using Jedi tricks by flinging opposition players about without even touching them.
If some of us down under football fans were a tad annoyed at the Italians antics then those who stayed up to watch the mighty Brazil and Cote d’Ivoire square off in what should have been a celebration of skill and pace saw cheating taken to another level.
Luis Fabiano managed use his arm at least once possibly twice when controlling the ball to fire home Brazils second goal. In the last 10 minutes chaos reigned as things got spiteful. A rash of cards some deserved some not were dished out to both sides. Cote d’Ivoire winger Kader Keita provided the worst case of cheating at this tournament to date when he ran at Kaka off the ball. His chest collided with Kaka’s arm and he fell to the ground clutching his face. A face that never came into contact with Kaka. That Brazil and all football fans should be deprived of one of their star players for their next game against Portugal is a disgrace.
That FIFA is prepared to allow this behaviour to go unpunished despite having the technology to fix it makes many of us wonder if they are more focussed on profit than credibility. It would destroy the flow of football to check decisions during the game, but surely retrospective sanctions against cheating players would quickly stamp out the cheats.
Maybe there is some Karma out there somewhere that makes up for FIFA’s impotence, because France who cheated their way to the finals courtesy of Thierry Henry’s handling skills have self-destructed. For Brazil too maybe this is belated payback for Rivaldo’s shocker back in 2002 when he milked a red card against Turkey by collapsing holding his face when the ball hit him in the midriff. Eight years on and we are still no better off. Maybe Keita was just taking the piss. He was doing a poor Rivaldo impression and never dreamed the ref would take it seriously. 
P.S. FIFA officials take note whatever your rules are about stretchers a good Canterbury lad like Ryan Nelsen will always limp off under his own steam rather than lie horizontally on one of your dorky stretchers. There must be a case for the rescinding of the yellow card our Ryan got. It is cultural insensitivity of the highest order to force a Southern man to show physical weakness in public.
P.P.S One for all you conspiracy theorists out there. I am sure there is no connection but doesn’t the abnormal number of withdrawals of top footballers prior to the World Cup through injury remind you of the Tour de France cycle race when some top cyclists pull out each year because they are ‘injured’ and not because their doctors stuffed up their medication?
Speaking of medication. The English team doctors need to find some bottles of happy pills fast for their lads. They look like they are perpetually stuck attending a funeral – one that is fast turning out to be their own. Come on England – cheer up and play some football instead of worrying about losing.

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