Football Must Reform Itself: The Distasteful Manner in Which Thierry Henry, and France, Earned Their Passage to the World Cup Finals Should Trigger the Game's Guardians to Change Its Rules and Accept the Help of Technological Aids

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I honestly thought that FIFA, in this New Year, was going to cross the threshold of stifling conservatism and introduce the use of desperately needed technology into the rules of our sport. Or, at the very least, ensure the addition of extra match officials on the pitch, to guarantee that dubious goals are disallowed and good ones, no matter how close, stand.

The fraternity's sense of fair play remains deeply offended by the odious way in which France's Les Bleus earned their passage to the World Cup, at the great expense of the hard-fighting Republic of Ireland.

The justified furore following that momentary act by Thierry Henry--undoubtedly a fine player, but whose long and distinguished career stands at great risk of being permanently tarnished by that singular deed of dishonesty--provided FIFA's executive committee and IFAB (the International Football Association Board) with the needed trigger to make revolutionary changes to the rules.


As Carlos Alberto Parreira, South Africa's coach, aptly pointed out, William Gallas's goal, aided by Henry's "Hand of God" pass, "was a shame for football."

I sat a few metres away from FIFA president Sepp Blatter, at last year's Soccerex conference in Johannesburg, where, in his crisp suit and polka-dotted blue tie, he pointed out that "the highest crime in football is touching the ball with the hand".

And when he poignantly observed that "there is a lack of discipline and respect from players because they are cheating" and stated, clearly, that "this is not good", I thought this was truly the "eureka" moment football's reformers had been waiting for. Change was finally coming ...

I was deeply disappointed to learn, with the subsequent decision on 3 December, announced to us on Robben Island following FIFA's executive committee meeting, that the status quo, regarding the use of technology and the number of officials for matches, remains.

Blatter, in his discussion with us at the Soccerex parley in Johannesburg, argued that football has "to live with the [human] errors of the referee and players ... The game must maintain its essence.

"There is too much at stake in football and that has [unfairly] put referees under pressure," he went on.

True that may be, but it is no reason for the game's rules not to evolve and recognise the demanding, high-pressured milieu in which football, unfortunately, is played today. Whether football's custodians care to openly admit it or not, the repercussions of erroneous decisions by referees have grown in leaps and bounds over the years.

Millions of euros, pounds and dollars, not to mention the precarious careers of coaches and players, in an unfortunate age of unrealistic expectations from impatient fans, billionaire club owners, as well as embattled national federations, are on the line.


The decision by Mourad Daami, the Tunisian centre referee, during the final of the 2000 African Cup of Nations, to rule that a potential championship-winning penalty scored by Nigeria's Victor Ikpeba, against Cameroon, had not crossed the line--when evidence subsequently showed that it clearly did--is a stark reminder of the limitations of the human eye. …


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