Friday, 20 November 2009

Fair Play and Replay: the French qualification for World Cup, 2010

The situation described in the last blog continues in the news: Thierry Henry's handling of the ball leading directly to a goal for France by Gallas. ( See below this piece)
               Apres vous Monsieur Duff. Non, apres vous, mon cher Thierry

A replay would be unwise, and possibly farcical, indignant as I am about the injustice to the Irish brought about by unfair play. They rose magnificently to the occasion and then were denied (well, not quite, they still had to score another goal in order to qualify on away goals). Clearly, the player is responsible. Henry said after the match that he did handle the ball but it was the referee's job to spot it, not his duty to point it out. This attitude reminds me of the lack of honesty in other walks of life where highly-paid professionals put themselves beyond the normal rules of reasonable conduct. The attitude of: "If we think we can get away with it, let's do it!". I am sure you can think of recent examples in banking and politics.

A replay goes into uncertain ground. There are so many incidents in a football match that are not judged correctly because the referee cannot see everything. The uncertainty of judging offsides, corners, handballs in general, and the institutionally endemic cheating such as shirt-pulling and pretending to be tripped (diving) are also difficult for referees to judge correctly. There was at least one corner and probably an offside that the referee may have got wrong in the match under discussion.

Fair play means, very simply, that the players should play fairly. The referee's job is to adjudicate situations where two teams of eleven individuals simultaneously co-operating and competing, inadvertently but sometimes intentionally, do not follow the rules of the game. To do this he needs the players to cooperate; why not? It is the players who must play fair. Everyone knows that the referee cannot see everything.

But, the very thought of the TV-soap drama of a replay makes me excited and want it to happen. Would Henry even play? Would it have to be on neutral ground? Would the crowd be vetted beforehand as if boarding an aircraft? Would the players feel like it was a real match? Imagine that the ball flies up in front of the French goal and an Irish player just cannot, cannot ....... stop himself from poking at the ball with a finger. It goes into the net! Goal! Goal! Goal

It would be wonderful on TV. And very difficult to resist!

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