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FIFA and hand robbers

By LARRY IZAMOJE
So no African team did better than Africa had done before now at the World Cup final, the first one  on the continent? Ghana really came close but for a hand robber called Suarez.

He was the player who made  volleyball of football  the way he thumped what would have been Ghana’s winning goal off the goal line, his keeper beaten. I refuse to  be drawn into the debate on why Asamoah Gyan  failed to score from the spot. Suarez’s action  is a bad example for the game and also for FIFA’s ‘football for all’ creed. It also leaves children with a bad pointer  of how to achieve success. There are more examples.

France got to south Africa only because of Thiery hand_ry’s action in twice controlling with the hand against Ireland for Gallas to nod home. He came out hours after ‘achieving success’ to agree he cheated. Soccer  bigwigs everywhere  condemned the action but FIFA would not order a replay.

For hand robbing, France qualified and got one million dollars from FIFA as World Cup preparation  grant. France, like others who meritoriously qualified ,got FIFA’s  accommodation and flight tickets largesse. The world body paid for 50 business class return tickets per delegation. France will get eight million dollars ($8m) for playing the three group matches of the World Cup finals.

More than  that, France  takes a slice of history as book keepers will forever record that Les Blues played in the 2010 World Cup final. Sadly, such record books,  particularly the ones in FIFA, do not tell the whole story of how  each team got there and tuck truth  behind by mainly showing tables and points garnered.

It is not clear what the French federation will do with the World Cup proceeds but whatever they do, soccer purists know the money may not have been theirs if Henry did not do hand_ry. If  they give a part to players to share as the Nigerian federation under the Sani lulu leadership at that time  said it will do, those who preach fair play will keep noting they are reaping when they did not transparently sow. What will the Irish think of FIFA when Zurich carries its fair play campaign to Dublin?

In South Africa, I saw jubilant fans when France crashed out. Truth is not many wished France well. Someone joked that France left early because Thiery’s hand was not made a key point of their strategy. Little wonder the player did not have long minutes under his boots. In spite of the topsy_turvy relationship  between  players, coach and the federation, they someday will collectively say ‘we were at the World Cup, Ireland was not’ to the chagrin of purists.

Iker Casillas, Spain’s goal tender is getting set for tomorrow’s final but ‘Saint’ Iker joined the growing list of complaining voices over the Jabulani, the competition ball. Someone wanted more goals and robbed us all of the great goals of a World Cup final by designing the Jabulani that did not give enough cause to cheer.

The USA’s NASA is out with a ruling. Jabulani is a robber. It robbed  keepers of their ball_ movement judgement. It rubbished  the skills of keepers and made  nonsense of all. Some of them  showed in several matches to become  the hailed keepers they are. I make bold to join Fabio Capello, Iker Cassilas and our own Vincent Enyeama in condemning the Jabulani.

A ball that turns and decides where to go once airborne is not good enough for the World Cup. I liken Jabulani to ‘felele’ the light_rubber ball we played as kids. Felele was a servant to the wind. So it has been with Jabulani when it comes to long kicks, direct and indirect.

The fanfare with which Jabulani was launched, the stories about it that flew from fifa stirred my interest in becoming one of the early buyers of the ball  as a souvenir. This World Cup recorded more off target shots than any before it. It saw more balls into touch after bouncing from a cross field play. Now I have a sad reminder of how the world’s best failed to shine because of someone’s hand in designing, some hands in producing and others in approving a ball.

Collectively, they robbed  me of those trademark free-kicks of superstars we never saw except that of Diego Forlan. I believe he would someday tell he took extra care hitting Jabulani. A ball is something with which players should freely and easily express themselves. Jabulani  failed, my simple verdict.

“It swerves all around like crazy at high speeds because of the air flow on the seams”, NASA aerodynamics team said. Sepp Blatter and team want to meet in September to review the effects of the Jabulani but will that return the shine taken off  people’s pedigree? No! May you never return, Jabulani

If you call Jabulani hand robbery conceptualized in a room, the Ghana versus Uruguay match has thrown up a lot of other questions. FIFA that turned a blind eye in the France versus Uruguay hand_ry story cannot continue to pretend any further. The World Cup is watched by all and one of the key tenets of football is to hail excellence and punish disobedience. It is a good teacher, football if played according to all acceptable moral standards and that is why FIFA and the international football board must re_think rules.

A red card should not be the ultimate punishment when  we have the kind of Suarez ball_ handling case in matches like we saw in the Ghana/Uruguay game..little wonder Suarez the villain became Suarez the hero after the penalty miss. If a keeper is beaten and any player behind or beside him handles the goal bound ball, a goal should  be awarded. This  is the rule change the world awaits.

This is so because by that act, Suarez not only put his team in the game for the resultant extra time and victory but robbed Ghana of a place in history. The Black Stars would have become the first African country to qualify for the last four of a World Cup final. It denied the players their winning bonus.

It robbed them of their daily allowances that would have continued if they had remained. It threw darts into individual and collective plans. It robbed Africans, so supportive of Ghana, of hard fought victory and in the land of our fore fathers-Africa-saw a foreigner ‘enslave’ us by pushing us into the cold called losing! Above all else, hand robbery brought Uruguay $4 million more in earnings from FIFA and $6 million if they win the third place match.

By the rules of South Africa 2010, Uruguay would have received $14 million which is what Ghana will now get for being a quarter_final loser. Now, they have $18m if fourth and $20m if third, largely because someone exploited the rule book to bring his team from the dead.

I watched Spain versus Germany. I reviewed how Lucas Podolski stood hands down as the ball flew into his net. Who knows what would have happened if he had Suarezed the ball. Maybe Podolski did not watch Suarez. FIFA and the rest of us did. $4 million, a better placing on the all_teams table plus a winning bonus just because of hand robbery?

Changes must be effected so we do not grow children to believe doing anything sinister is good if it gives the desired result at the end. Suarez may be good for Uruguay but he is bad for Pele’s beautiful game.

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