Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is Sepp Blatter a Dope?

How can such a wealthy, global entity such as Fifa ... be run by a guy who, apparently, does something supremely foolish about once a day?

Today's permutation of the Ireland story (and it should have died two weeks ago, except for Sepp Blatter's gaffes) ... is that the Ireland federation's suggestion that it be the 33rd team in the South Africa 2010 draw, as reported by Sepp two days ago, was ...

1) Apparently not serious and certainly never made in writing by Ireland.

2) Clearly not meant for Sepp Blatter to use as comic relief in a public forum. Which is what he did ... mention the 33rd team thing and get laughs.

And that is why the Ireland story has legs ... right up to the day before the 2010 draw takes place.

Here are specifics on the latest "open mouth, extract foot" moment for the exalted ruler of all things soccer:

Did I mention that this comes in the hours before the draw? When we ought to be talking about nothing except the game?

Could Fifa and Sepp have handled this any more ineptly?

Instead of doing the right (if unusual) thing and calling for a replay the day after the bogus France goal, Blatter shrugs and says "sorry, that's the beautiful game for you."

He then excoriates the Fifa-employed-and-assigned referee for not seeing a violation ... on the touch line ... in the 105th minute of a supremely tense match. (Hence the expression, "throwing someone under the bus.")

(Another aside: Hasn't anyone in soccer yet realized how crazy it is for a game involving 22 supremely fit and speedy players, played on an enormous surface, for two-plus hours, to be officiated by one middle-aged guy -- and two linesmen discouraged to do anything except make offsides calls? Aren't we long overdue for a second referee? Even before we get around to video replays?)

Meanwhile, it also is acknowledged that Fifa could take some steps to clean up its innumerable refereeing mistakes (oh, yeah, it turns out the decisive Uruguay goal in the Costa Rica playoffs for a World Cup berth should have been disallowed because of offsides) by adding an official behind the goal (and maybe someday using video replay).

But Sepp and Fifa continue in their staunch opposition to improving the game till after it can give serious study to the idea of an official behind the goal.

(I mean, this ain't splittin' the atom, you know? Stick a guy back there, and he does nothing except watch ... and wait to see if the referee asks for his help. We're pretty sure Fifa can afford to hire guys to do this.)

Meanwhile, Fifa launches an investigation of Thierry Henry, the French player who handled the ball twice before the goal that put France in the World Cup (and eliminated Ireland). Apparently, Henry should have gone directly to the referee and insisted, "That one doesn't count. I handled the ball." Even as the Stade de France is rocking and teammates are celebrating. The fallacy of this confess-your-sins approach being ... that no professional athlete has turned himself in for breaking the rules for, oh, a century now. The expression "that isn't cricket" ... doesn't even apply to cricket anymore. Professional athletes seem to have decided, en masse, about the year 1900, that it should be up to professional arbiters to get things right. But now Thierry Henry is at fault? And he faces a ban of a match of two?

I usually don't like criticizing the heads of major sports organizations. Their jobs are tougher than they appear. A whole world of sniping federations, billions of critical fans ... Generally, muddling through is good enough for me. Fifa can't manage even that.

Sepp just keeps pinning a "kick me" sign to his pants. Which leads me to believe that, yes, the president of Fifa is a dope.
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