Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It'll Be Agony without Neymar and FIFA Must Take the Blame

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It'll Be Agony without Neymar and FIFA Must Take the Blame

Article excerpt

Byline: Patrick Barclay at the World Cup

NO ONE wants big players to miss big matches at the World Cup. We're all agreed on that. The only question is how best to arrange it and unfortunately that was entrusted to the clots at FIFA who set the tone of refereeing in this tournament.

I don't know who they are. I wish I did because I'd like to shake them warmly by the throat for creating an environment that now lacks the host country's most popular player. Neymar has a fractured vertebra. But it could just as easily have been a twisted knee or ankle, for he had been kicked and buffeted almost from the outset.

One FIFA executive member unlikely to have been complicit is Michel d'Hooghe, for he is in charge of medical matters and told a London conference a few years ago: "I want us to win the fight against brutality. How we should do that? By getting referees to be very strict. I believe the referee's duty is to be football's first doctor the doctor on the field."

They were wise words. And they were clearly ignored in the advice given to match officials. This seemed to be that FIFA wanted to reduce the chance of players missing matches through suspension by showing cards as late as possible and ideally not at all.

It conspired, of course, in a gradual increase in fouling, for defenders are quick to catch a mood, and the serious injury of a creator just became a matter of time and the poor fellow's identity.

All too predictably, we now have the precise opposite of what FIFA set out to achieve: the absence of a big player from a big match, namely Neymar (above) from Brazil's semi-final against Germany tomorrow night (and the final should his team get there).

It is equally predictable that FIFA should be unaware of their own part in Neymar's misfortune, even though the host of professionals who have mentioned it include Junior, from the much-loved Brazil of 1982, and Juninho Pernambucano, the free-kick maestro, who jointly made the point during a television commentary on Globo, the most-watched station. …

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