Monday, 30 November 2009

Ireland plead for a 33rd place at the World Cup. Don't hold your breath. But we may get two more refs.

THE Thierry Henry handball fiasco, like Tiger Woods' mysterious car crash, just won't go away. Today, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter informs us the Republic of Ireland have asked for a 33rd place at the World Cup finals in South Africa next June - and he hinted two extra match officials may be used behind either goal at the tournament.
Ireland's reprieve is not going to happen. But it should. Lest we forget, Henry's basketball-style manipulation of the ball with his left arm led to the William Gallas goal which put France through at Ireland's expense in Paris a fortnight ago.
Right-thinking fans around the world - 345,000 of them on a Facebook petition alone, many of them French - demanded a replay. Even the Irish government became involved. But FIFA, being FIFA, declined the tidal wave of support for the replay without adequately explaining why.
Expect little better this time. Blatter, who appears to care only about certain countries and certain controversies (he allowed a replay between Uzbekistan and Bahraine over a disputed refereeing decision in a far less important World Cup qualifier) said only: "I will bring Ireland's request to the attention of the Executive Committee."
He might as well have told our inconsolable Irish neighbours: "Sorry, France are going, you're not. Ya boo."
Angry Irish fans won't be placated by the other titbit offered by Blatter, who finally admitted: "Something has to be done about match control" and suggested FIFA are thinking about introducing two extra officials for the tournament next year.
Once they have dismissed Ireland's request for an extra place at the table, the executive committee will hold "an emergency meeting" to discuss the addition of an extra match official behind either goal.
Their meeting takes place in Cape Town on Wednesday, two days ahead of Friday's eagerly-awaited World Cup draw, which will decide where and when each of the 32 nations plays.
But even if they agree to the change, it won't be put to the international board in Zurich until March. Blatter admitted: "We have only one man on the field of play who can intervene. He has two assistants for the time being, perhaps more in the future. He has to make an immediate decision.
"He has only two eyes. So match control is now is on the agenda. How shall we avoid such situations as we have seen in this very specific match? It's possible we will make additional officials for the World Cup but we have to see if it is feasible or realistic."
Unfortunately for Ireland, Costa Rica feel they were robbed by Uruguay too, citing an offside decision in their play-off defeat. That will, no doubt, be the excuse FIFA needs to keep Ireland out. They will argue if they let one side in, they'll have several demanding a place.
Unfazed, the FA of Ireland released a statement, confirming a 90-minute meeting with Blatter in Zurich last Friday.
The FAI said: "A lot was discussed at the meeting and at one stage the FAI asked if Ireland could be accommodated into the World Cup 2010.
"Other suggestions were also made to mitigate against further occurrences of such incidents, including the use of additional goal-line assistant referees for Fifa international matches, further use of video technology for matches at the highest level, stronger provisions to discourage players from engaging in such blatant breaches of the laws of the game and provisions to strengthen referee selection for such important matches."
Let's hope Blatter was paying attention. One day something might be done. But Ireland's exclusion will not be reversed... and their sense of injustice will take a long time to fade.


  1. The FIFA boys club. These prehistoric monsters are stunting the game with their petty, unprofessional attitudes, reluctance to change/evolve, and in Jack Warner's case downright corrupt.

    Still, what a ridiculous request from Ireland. England didn't ask for an extra place because Koeman should have been sent off prior to scoring a free kick in qualifying for USA '94? It's exactly the same level of argument.

  2. Was thinking we could have had five in the semis in 1986!

  3. Surely the biggest injustice was the FIFA decision to seed the playoffs AFTER the qualifying competition had started.

    Do you think they would have been so against a replay had the roles been reversed and a major footballing nation been knocked out...