FIFA to Crack Down on Cheating at World Cup


worldcuplogo FIFA President Sepp Blatter has announced his intention to crack down on cheating during next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa. He will advocate extra referees when the FIFA Executive Committee meets in Cape Town, South Africa this Wednesday. Press rumours also suggest he will consider whether France’s Thierry Henry should face some sanctions for a handball against the Republic of Ireland in the second leg of the play-off game that ensured France’s eventual qualification. Quite why this instance of deliberate handball is considered more egregious than the many others that happen every week has not been made clear, and the French Football Federation are likely to decide that enough is enough if any kind of ban is imposed on Henry.

Of far greater concern to most football fans is the sin of embellishment or diving, that is the art of feigning being fouled to con the referee into awarding your side free kicks or penalties, and in doing so framing an innocent opponent. This is a problem in every league in the world including MLS, but it has to be said that football’s world governing bodies have to bear a great deal of the responsibility, having repeatedly honoured Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the highest profile and most prolific embellishers world football has seen for some while.

Blatter gave a passing nod to the Henry issue while clearly signaling that his priorities lay elsewhere.

“The highest crime in football is touching the ball with the hand but the bigger impact on the game is diving and trying to cheat the referee,” he said. “How can we tell youngsters that football is the school of life when there is cheating and lack of respect for referees. The lesson must come from the top and we must appeal to the players, coaches and the rest of the football family for more discipline and respect.”

This is to be welcomed. The World Cup in 2006 was littered with incidents of play acting, with the clash between Portugal and the Netherlands sticking in the memory, when Figo’s swallow act earned Khalid Boulahrouz a red card in a feisty game. If anything can be done to rid the game of this element, the sport overall will benefit.

However it may be a matter of concern that some of world football’s most marketable players, for example Ronaldo, and Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba are amongst those accused most often of play acting. While a crackdown on star players cheating may be well overdue, fans may remain cynical whether FIFA will necessarily take aim at their most cash productive sacred cows.


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