Despicable People and the World Cup (Part 2)

Editor’s Note:

These articles were originally published by us as one article. We have split the original into four  articles for ease of reading. We think it timely to remind readers, especially now, that football’s greatest tournament has been subject to political exploitation by despicable people previously. It is fitting that despite his interference Francisco Franco never lived to see Spain become the dominant force in football – consecutive European Championships and a World Cup – let alone benefit from it. There must be no return to such exploitation of the world’s most popular sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 8th 2008)

Controversies

The South American challenge was weak. Argentina was enraged by the poaching of top players by Italy – the Oriundi – so they sent a weakened team to the 1934 World Cup in Italy. Uruguay, the defending champions were incensed by Italy’s boycott of their tournament four years earlier. They refused to defend their title. Brasil had yet to become Brasil.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini knew that despite the weakened field there were still European countries to deal with, so Mussolini left nothing to chance. There were scandals aplenty and that was before the controversy over Swedish official Ivan Elkind, who refereed the final.

Shameful Officiating

Spain drew Italy in the quarter final. The first match ended in a 1-1 draw, amid complaints that Belgian referee Louis Baert allowed the Italians too much latitude. Baert was a linesman in both the semi final and final, which were refereed by Elkind as well.

The rustic nature of their challenges in the first match, particularly on Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora1 caused him to have to miss the replay, which was even worse. It was so scandalous that the previously highly rated Swiss referee René Mercet was disgraced over it.

His refereeing was said to be so biased in favour of the Italians that the Swiss FA withdrew him from any further appointments for internationals. Just as Zamora had been persistently fouled by the Italians in the first game, Mercet allowed them to get away with it in the replay too.

Giuseppe Meazza benefited from yet another foul on the keeper to score the only goal of the match. Mercet was accused of shamefully favouring Italy and allowing the crowd to influence his decisions. Italy progressed to the semi final.

Bad to Worse

Elkind refereed it with Baert as one of the linesmen. Italy won 1-0 with a goal scored by Enrique Guaita.2 Elkind was appointed to referee the final. Mussolini still wasn’t satisfied. Leaving nothing to chance the dictator dined with the Swedish referee the night before the final. Italy beat Czechoslovakia 2-1.

Mussolini had his trophy. It was perhaps the most scandalous World Cup ever. Despite allegations of bribery and corruption against them over the 1934 World Cup, both Baert and Elkind enjoyed long careers as referees. Elkind refereed a total sixteen World Cup matches and Baert took a prestigious appointment with the Belgian FA after his retirement as a referee in 1952.

Basking in Undeserved Glory

Meanwhile, Mussolini basked in the glory of a World Cup triumph that allowed Italians to forget their problems while they celebrated. He also used the success to bolster the credibility of his government. Knowing what World Cup success could bring Mussolini wanted more of the same, but four years later as the world veered towards war he could not interfere as outrageously as had been achieved in 1934.

And Italy would have to win by fairer means in 1938. Nevertheless, they received some unexpected assistance. The threat of war resulted in some nations withdrawing early. The tournament was weaker than it should have been. And top European teams would miss it too. England apparently believed the World Cup was beneath them.

Absences

Spain was the first country to miss a World Cup due to war in 1938. The Spanish Civil War stopped international football, but not the Cup of Free Spain, which Valencian club Levante won. The World Cup continued without them. Austria – semi-finalists four years previously – qualified, but withdrew due to unification with Nazi Germany.

The Austrian Wunderteam was torn asunder by reunification and the ‘unified’ German team did not gel. It lacked Austria’s greatest player Matthias Sindelar. Rather than play for the Nazis Sindelar retired, claiming his age and injury and did so after thumbing his nose at the Nazis in a ʻunificationʼ match.

 

 

Sindelar was no Nazi and celebrated his goal against the Germans in that match in an exuberant manner. Sindelar had revolutionised forward play in the Wunderteam under legendary coach Hugo Meisl. Sindelar refused to play for Germany. He died in mysterious circumstances a year after the World Cup in France aged just 36. There was no shortage of conspiracy theories. Another pair of opponents had neutralised themselves.

Wringing Value

Mussolini was determined to wring whatever propaganda value he could from the defence of their title. The quarter final pitted the Italians against the host nation. Baert refereed the match with Elkind serving as one of his linesmen. The Italians wore the infamous black-shirts. It was highly provocative.

Nevertheless, Italy beat France 3-1. They faced a bizarrely chosen Brasil team in the semi-final, winning 2-1. Leading scorer and one of his country’s first super-stars Leônidas da Silva missed the match – possibly rested. His absence was attributed by some to interference by Mussolini, but that has never been verified.

Italian great Giuseppe Meazza scored the controversial winner from the penalty spot, but according to objective reports Italy deserved their win anyway. It was fitting that Brasil finally sent their strongest team to the World Cup, but somehow conspired to get tactics and selection wrong. Italy retained the trophy in 1938, beating Hungary 4-2 in the final. They were the best team, even though their physical approach, especially that of enforcer Luis Monti, had critics.

An Uncertain Future

World War II meant that there was no World Cup in 1942. It would probably have been held in Brasil. The world had other priorities in 1946. It was therefore unclear if would even be a World Cup ever again. Football and the World Cup survived. A World Cup in 1949 was mooted. The Superga Disaster ended that possibility. FIFA wanted Italy to defend their title, but after the tragedy Italy did not want to. They had to be persuaded to come, but the Azzurri were understandably deeply affected by Superga.

 

Brasil was chosen to host the next tournament, but insisted that it be held in 1950 rather than 1949 as FIFA originally intended. Germany was partitioned and originally banned. Football had not been organised in either East or most of West Germany at first anyway, so there was no German representation in Brasil in 1950.

Mussolini had been executed by Italian partisans in 1944, so Italy – the defending champions – were permitted to come, but originally decided not to play in spite of FIFA’s offer to meet their expenses. However, Italy defended their title, but deeply affected by the Superga tragedy the Italian FA refused to allow their team to fly. Instead they sailed, depriving the squad of training opportunities.

They were the first World champions to go out in the first round after a woeful defence of their title even though there were exceptional circumstances. Not only had they suffered poor transportation, they has lost the flesh of a truly great team – il Grande Torino. Two years before the Superga Disaster that team contributed ten out of eleven starters for Italy. Not even the world champions could afford to lose that amount of talent.

The 1950 World Cup finals ensured that the tournament would continue. But twenty years later the hosts of the first post-war tournament would abuse the World Cup again for political ends, as another vile dictatorship would seek to profit from the World Cup.

1  The goalkeeping award in Spain’s La Liga is named after him. He became a controversial figure as he represented both Cataluña and Spain and accepted awards from both the Spanish republic and fascists. He also won trophies for both Barcelona and Real Madrid.

2Enrique Guaita: Raimundo Orsi and Luis Monti had previously played for Argentina.

 

 

 

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Despicable People and the World Cup (Part 1)

Editor’s Note:

These articles were originally published by us as one article. We have split the original into four articles for ease of reading. We think it timely to remind readers, especially now, that football’s greatest tournament has been subject to political exploitation by despicable people previously. It is fitting that despite his interference Francisco Franco never lived to see Spain become the dominant force in football – consecutive European Championships and a World Cup – let alone benefit from it. There must be no return to such exploitation of the world’s most popular sport.

Derek Miller

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 8th 2008)

The Power of Football

The European Championship in Austria and Switzerland is centre-stage and rightly so, but some have other priorities. Over forty European nations that failed to qualify are already focusing their attention firmly on the World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010.

England played the USA at Wembley on May 28th and Trinidad and Tobago on June 1st as Fabio Capello continues to experiment ahead of the World Cup qualification campaign that will begin in earnest in September. It will offer England the opportunity to renew acquaintance with Croatia and possibly Slaven Bilić too.,

South America has already begun its qualification matches and Africa has also begun the task of whittling down the 30 countries to the five that will accompany the hosts too. Other federations have started their qualification process as well. Some friendlies offer the opportunity for members of rival federations to learn about each other as well ahead of the important business of making sure they get to South Africa.

Jorge Luis Pinto brought his entertaining Colombian team to Craven Cottage to face Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland team on May 29th. They know that the price of failure is high. Many coaches will either be sacked or resign and harsh decisions to end international careers will be taken by players or coaches, but the rewards of World Cup success are great and not just for players, or even coaches.

Basking in Reflected Glory

Sadly, some truly despicable people and régimes have basked in the glory of World Cup triumph and used the awesome power of footballing success on the greatest stage for their own ends. Both the former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and his then Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini are among those to profit from the power of football.

They understood the value of footballing success to distract the attention of the public from social ills. Franco had no love of the game, but he saw that it was popular and could be used to bolster his rule. Spanish football was organised to suit Franco’s wishes. It paid off at club level, but not in the World Cup.

Despite almost four decades in charge Franco never managed to bring the World Cup to Spain either as host or champion. The best he could do was Spain’s only triumph in a major tournament – the European Championship of 1964. Compared to Mussolini, Franco was a novice, who never understood or got the chance to exploit the World Cup for political purposes.

Dubious Origins

In 1932 Italy was awarded the right to host the 1934 World Cup finals. From the start it was a controversial choice. The fascists had been in power for a decade and Italy had snubbed the previous tournament in Uruguay – a slight the first hosts did not forgive. Luis Monti had represented Argentina in the first World Cup in 1930, even playing in the final itself. Four years later he would play in the final again – this time for Italy. He is the only player to have played in the World Cup final for two different countries.

Other Argentinian players were recruited by Italy before the 1934 tournament, much to the chagrin of the beaten finalists of 1930. The Oriundi as they were called was controversial. Argentina protested by sending a weak team. Uruguay – the defending World Champions – boycotted the 1934 event because of the lack of European participation in the inaugural World Cup.

Uruguay, previously unofficial world champions by virtue of winning the Olympic title of 1928, which was the last time the Olympic title truly was a measure of the best team in the world, was not there – the last time the winners did not defend their crown. Brasil came, but was not the force that they would be in 1938.

The South Americans were no threat to Italy, but given the fact that Italy had boycotted the inaugural World Cup, should they have been allowed to host it at all?

 

An Unwanted Distinction – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 17th 2009)

Fearsome

As West Indies captain Chris Gayle contemplates his third failure in a row amid accusations of disrespecting both this tour and Test Match cricket as a whole and the media storm that it has caused, he may spare a thought for his countryman and fellow West Indies international Leslie Hylton. On this very day (54 years ago Hylton secured an unwanted piece of cricket history at the cost of his life.

Hylton was a fearsome fast-bowler in his prime and not a complete mug with the bat. His first class record for Jamaica was not bad – in 40 matches he scored five half centuries with a best of 80, took 31 catches and 120 wickets at a reasonable strike rate and average. He never took ten wickets in a match, but claimed five victims in an innings thrice in first class cricket, but never in Tests.

Rich Potential

Hylton made his début in 1927, aged 21 and called time on his career as the world descended into the chaos of the Second World War. His first Test Match was in Bridgetown, Barbados, in January 1935 against England – all six were against the same opposition. After the West Indies had been dismissed for a paltry 102 that would have been considerably worse without George Headley’s 44, Hylton took his chance.

Although the Bridgetown wicket was clearly a bowling track, his first innings figures were sensational – 7.2 overs, 3 maidens 3 wickets for 8 runs. Wily England skipper, Bob Wyatt declared on 81 for 7. The West Indies also declared and England won by four wickets. Hylton took one wicket in the second innings.

In the second Test in Port of Spain, Trinidad, he took 2 for 55 and 3 for 25 as the West Indies won by 217 runs to level the series. The great Learie Constantine, who was later knighted and then ennobled took 3 for 11 in the second innings as England collapsed to 107 all out.

The third Test in Georgetown, Guyana was drawn, but Hylton produced his best analysis in Test Matches 4 for 27 from 13.2 overs, but that was bettered by Eric Hollies – the man who denied the great Don Bradman an average of 100 in Test Matches – who took 7 for 50 in 26 overs, which was his best too.

Hylton was wicketless in his eight overs in the second innings – the first time he experienced that sensation in international cricket. It happened again in both innings of the fourth Test Match at Kingston’s Sabina Park ground – the one and only appearance that he made at his home ground.

However, he had the consolation of the West Indies winning by an innings and 161 runs to take the series – their first series win, which was secured at the fifth attempt. Hylton’s only meaningful contribution in the match was to catch Walter Hammond for 11 – one of Constantine’s 3 wickets for 55 in England’s first innings – the only catch he took in international cricket.

Decline

After his explosive start to Test cricket, in which he troubled an impressive England line-up that included one of the finest batsmen England ever produced – Hammond – Hylton faded towards the end of the series and was not selected again until the 1939 tour of England. He played in the first Test Match at cricket’s headquarters and took a wicket in each innings, but England won easily by eight wickets.

Opener Arthur Fagg was Hylton’s final victim in Test cricket in the first innings of the Old Trafford Test Match, bowled for 7. The brief international career of Leslie Hylton ended with 0 for 18 from 6 overs in the second innings. His final figures in Test cricket was 16 wickets for 418 runs from 965 balls. He made 70 runs from 8 innings, twice being undefeated. But the figures didn’t tell the whole story. He was an intimidating prospect to face in his prime.

A Marriage made in Hell

Leslie Hylton will never be forgotten, but unfortunately for him not for his cricket. He retired aged 34, having maintained his bachelor status – something both he and his wife Lurline would have good reason to wish he had preserved. Three years after he hung up his boots they married, but his spouse fell for the charms of notorious womaniser Roy Francis. Lurline had gone to the USA to learn dress-making and while there fell for Francis, but Hylton was told of the affair and on her return confronted her about it.

Eventually, she not only admitted it, but flouted it. “I’m in love with Roy,” she was alleged to have said. “My body belongs to him.”

She then pulled up her nightdress to expose herself to her husband and emphasise that she had cuckolded him. Hylton grabbed the gun from the window-sill and shot her seven times, killing the 40 year-old, before calling the police. This is Hylton’s version of the fatal events, yet he undermined his own defence in his trial.

Loss of Control

His trial counsel Vivian Blake presented a credible defence that the former fast-bowler had been provoked, even presenting a letter to Francis from the deceased to the jury. “My beloved, I’m realising even more than I did before how much I love you,” she wrote. “I am going to force my man’s hand as soon as I can.”

Blake argued that Lurline’s actions were sufficient to cause any reasonable man to lose his self control. There was a strong case of provocation, but Hylton absurd claims that he meant to kill himself returned to haunt him – he had shot her seven times, meaning that he had to reload and shoot her again.

Recommendation

The law eventually moved on. such circumstances would almost certainly result in a lesser degree of guilt, possibly resulting in a manslaughter conviction. Back in the 1950s it was murder and that meant only one sentence – it was two years before the Homicide Act introduced stricter guidelines to the use of the death penalty.

Even without that the jury found Hylton guilty of murder with a strong recommendation for mercy. That could only have been due to the provocation – powerful mitigation, but not an excuse. However, the jury’s recommendation was ignored by the judge who sentenced Hylton to death and mercy was not forthcoming from the colonial authorities either.

On May 17th 1955, the 50-year-old Leslie George Hylton made history. He was hanged at St. Catherine’s in Kingston, Jamaica. He has the unwanted distinction of being the only Test Match cricketer ever to be executed. Keen to avoid scandal Wisden – the cricket almanac – published an obituary that failed to mention this fact. It has subsequently been corrected.

 

Three Lions Given Roaring Send-off to World Cup

ENGLAND World Cup Wembley Warm up: FT Jagielka 69′, 64′ Cahill, 32′ Sturridge ENGLAND 3-0 PERU. Three Lions’ confidence boosting win for BRAZIL

Kick off time at Wembley tonight

by RICHARD IV
@lmenin at the Wembley Stadium
Image
ENGLAND V PERU FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL
ENGLAND (4-2-3-1)
Joe Hart (Gk)
Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines:
Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard;
Alan Lallana, Daniel Welbeck, Wayne Rooney;
Daniel Sturridge
Coach: Roy Hodgson
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PERU (4-2-3-1)
Raul Fernandez (Gk)
Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodriguez, Alexander Callens, Yoshimar Yotun;
Luis Advincula, Josepmir Ballon;
Jean Deza, Luis Ramirez, Ronaldo Cruzado;
Andre Carrillo
Coach: Pablo Bengoechea
Image
WEMBLEY. 15′ In the best stadium in the world is nil – nil so far. Good fresh football by Peru, heavy legs in the England side so far.

Up to the 16′ plenty of chances for the South Americans on the break. On the last one Joe Hart had to quickly and promptly come off his penalty box to intercept a dangerous ball through.
Image
18′ On the up side for the Three Lions had their wonder chance with Walbeck who just sthoot
wide from wide inside the box.

32′ GOOAAAL for ENGLAND. After the missed chance England kept the pressure on the Peruvian so on a thrown by Glen Johnson almost on the corner kick, Daniel Sturridge let the ball come inside eluding the marker, continued along the 18 yds line and then when at the beginning of the D shape lashed out a bended-dropping ball into the top corner.  The marvelous 87,000 passionate England crowds that filled up the best stadium in the world (Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer’s words) exploded in awe.
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34′. Rooney’s header just above the bar from a Gerrard free kick

44′ Colossal chance for Peru to equalize was Ramirez was freed  in front of Hart who bravely deflected in corner with a leg.

SECOND HALF
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64′ GOALL by ENGLAND. On the a corner kick Cahill after a few struggling with the opponents defenders managed to find himself on a ball dropping just above Welbeck’s head and to drove powerfully into the net.

69′ GOOAL for ENGLANd. Following another corner, the ball came into the hand of the Peru’s goalie who, disturbed by a team mate, lost the ball that dropped just on the path of Phil Jagielka who easily tapped in the empty goal.

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ENGLAND WORLD CUP WEMBLEY WARM UP: HT 32′ STURRIDGE ENGLAND 1-0 PERU KO 20.00

by RICHARD IV

CIMG8636

@lmenin at the Wembley Stadium

WEMBLEY. The best stadium in the world Nil – nil so far. Good fresh football by Peru, heavy legs in the England side so far.

CIMG8632

Up to the 16′ plenty of chances for the South Americans on the break. On the last one Joe Hart had to quickly and promptly come off his penalty box to intercept a dangerous ball through.
18′ On the up side for the Three Lions had their wonder chance with Sturridge who just shot  wide from wide inside the box.

32′ GOOAAAL for ENGLAND. After the missed chance England kept the pressure on the Peruvian so on a thrown by Glen Johnson almost on the corner kick, Daniel Sturridge let the ball come inside eluding the marker, continued along the 18 yds line and then when at the beginning of the D shape lashed out a bended-dropping ball into the top corner. The passionate England crowds that filled up the best stadium in the world (Beckenbauer’s words) exploded in awe.

CIMG8639

34′. Rooney’s header just above the bar from a Gerrard free kick

44 Luis Ramirez of Corinthians has great chance. Joe Hart sticks out a leg and concedes a corner. Great chance.

England lead 1-0 at half time. Peru have silenced a few critics!

 

Unconvincing Draw

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 28th 2014)

Honours Even

An unconvincing display by Stephen Keshi’s World Cup bound Nigeria, resulted in Gordon Strachan’s Scotland being pegged back to 2-2 in injury time. It was harsh on the Scots who took the lead within 10 minutes through Charlie Mulgrew. His subtle back-heeled flick from James Morrison’s shot was no fluke. It gave Nigeria’s second choice goalkeeper Austin Ejide no chance.

Scotland created the better chances in the first half but Keshi’s blushes at half time were spared as Michael Uchebo who had been profligate previously was put through by Reuben Gabriel and shot from 22 yards out,”It was a great goal”, Uchebo said with his tongue firmly in his cheek. It took a wicked deflection off Grant Hanley, giving Scotland’s keeper Alan McGregor no chance.

7 minutes into the second half Azubunke Egwuekwe’s attempt to clear Morrison’s cross as he was posed to shoot was sliced into his own net. Scotland’s captain Scott Brown had found Morrison on the right flank. Strachan’s improving team deserved to win the match, but in the first minute of added time Uche Nwofor grabbed another equaliser after being found by another substitute Nnamdi Oduamadi just outside the 6-yard box after a weak tackle by Morrison. It was barely deserved.

Referee Lee Probert had shown a thoroughly deserved yellow card for a cynical foul on Oduamadi a couple of minutes earlier. With the World Cup fast approaching it was the last thing Nigeria and Oduamadi who has problems with such tackling previously needed. Nevertheless, at times it seemed that Scotland rather than the Super-Eagles were playing like the team going to Brasil.

Slippery Brazuca

Scotland were the better team on the night, but to some extent they should have been. Anya exposed right back Kunle Odunlami’s lack of pace within the first five minutes. He really should have scored – tight angle or not. Nigeria’s reserve keeper Austin Ejide’s performance was bizarre. He is far better keeper than was seen tonight. His effort to deny left winger Ikechi Anya consisted of sticking out a leg and being relieved to see it go wide.

After 32 minutes Scotland should have seen their lead doubled. Shaun Maloney’s corner resulted in Ejide coming to punch, but under pressure he managed to catch and throw it into his own net. Was the ball playing tricks? First choice goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama prefers it to the ball used in South Africa’s World Cup. He also said,”I don’t comment on individuals”, when asked about Ejide’s performance.

Controversies

In the second half Scotland had another goal disallowed. That looked a harsh off-side call by the linesman. Before the match had even started it was shrouded in controversy as allegations of match-fixing surfaced. Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi said he didn’t know where they had come from. Keshi’s decision to start a weak team raised a few eyebrows.

Enyeama whose form has been winning awards in France was not even in the squad for this match. Nor were Mikel Obi, Brown Ideye and Ahmed Musa among others. Keshi gave chances to fringe players to play their way onto the plane to Brasil. But was there even a remote chance that some of the players seen tonight would be going to the World Cup?

Playing out of position – he’s normally at centre back – Odunlami was frequently embarrassed by Anya’s pace. The quality of Anya’s crosses and shooting left a bit to be desired, but Nigeria’s opponents will have noted Odunlami is vulnerable against pace if he makes the trip – he appears to be in Keshi’s plans.

Shola Ameobi barely starts for Newcastle United, yet started for Nigeria tonight. Why? Is it really likely he’ll go, especially after snubbing Nigeria for the African Cup of Nations last year, preferring to miss out on a medal and history for a regular place on Newcastle’s bench. And if he doesn’t go – he shouldn’t, both for the snub and more importantly because he is not good enough – what was achieved by him playing tonight rather than a more likely option.

So close to the World Cup it’s hard to believe that African Cup of Nations winning coach Keshi doesn’t already know the squad he intends to take to Brasil. Does Keshi really think that Ameobi has a chance of making the trip and if so why? Keshi has not named his squad yet. There were some in the 22 – starting eleven as well – who have little if any chance of going to Brasil. Why were Nigeria’s fans seeing them? Only Keshi knows.

 

Own Goals – Archive

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2012 and modified on May 27th 2014))

UEFA Back Goal-line Assistant Referees

The President of UEFA scored some own goals at this afternoon’s press conference. Michel Platini launched a vigorous attack on technology, believing that it does not help and asking why the debate is limited to just goal-line technology and not for other decisions – a very fair point. However, Platini has no truck with technology at all, although he has no problem with extra officials.

UEFA’s General Secretary Gianni Infantino revealed that UEFA had received former referee Pierluigi Collina’s findings on the experiments with extra assistants. Collina had studied 1000 matches and concluded that the extra officials on the goal-line had reduced errors to just one – the match between Ukraine and England, which was played at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

UEFA unanimously accepted Collina’s findings and will urge FIFA and the IFA (International Football Association) to adopt the policy, but both Platini and Collina remain opposed to the use of technology. UEFA argued that the extra assistants improved behaviour in the penalty area. Even if that is true, what about behaviour on the rest of the pitch? Has that improved too as a result of the extra officials and if not, how does UEFA propose to achieve this?

Crazy Idea

There was further controversy. “It’s just an idea”, Platini repeatedly said, but it was one that he insisted had some support. Platini thinks that Euro 2020 could be hosted in several countries – up to twelve. Travel – budget airlines or not – will be prohibitive for fans and some media too. It will also take up time to get between the host cities – more a media point, but the cost for fans, especially, will be high too if they wish to see a few teams play.

Multiplying the host countries will cause all sorts of logistical problems and much more besides. It will be a linguistic nightmare too. Co-hosting causes difficulties in covering both matches and pre-match or post-match training. Choices have to be made, or teams of reporters have to be larger, which may not be an option for various media in the current economic climate.

One of the major complaints about Ukraine has been the absurd accommodation prices. UEFA complained about this, but some prices still remain prohibitive. It was also an issue in Austria four years ago, leading to a collapse in prices when the accommodation was not booked at the high prices.

Such problems apply in Ukraine, which is a pity as by and large the Ukrainian people I met – and I met quite a few in my short stay in the country – are lovely and friendly people who should not be judged by a few greedy and unhelpful people. Multiplying the host countries will multiply such problems, as there will be no opportunity to develop a tourism strategy or spread the sporting development plan.

Plain Wrong

But back to technology. UEFA decided to recommend that FIFA and IFA adopt the additional referees on the goal-line, claiming that it has been very successful in a 1000 with only one high profile error – the goal that never was for Ukraine. Despite Platini’s views, there are clearly issues where technology would help – even something as basic replays.

Check the footage and you will see that there is no do doubt that a serious error was made – one that a replay or review could have put right. The technology exists to improve decisions to correct glaring errors. The officials are human. Even the best of them will make mistakes, sometimes glaring ones. Surely if the correct decision can be made by using technology, that should happen. Cricket allows reviews and uses technology in the Decision Review System (DRS). Why doesn’t football?

Affecting Results

Ukraine’s goal that was not given involved another wrong decision. There was also an error in the build up to that goal, which had benefited Ukraine. This was a case of two errors – one for either side. Does two wrong decisions now amount to one right decision? But regardless of that there were errors in other matches, which were important ones.

At least two serious errors would have been caught before they had serious consequences if the use of basic technology had been allowed. Nevertheless, Platini claimed that there were no refereeing errors that affected the outcome of a match. This is wrong.

One is the yellow card given by Jonas Eriksson to Giorgos Karagounis for diving in the match against Russia in Warsaw. The replays showed that there had been contact between defender Sergei Ignashevich and Karagounis, who went down in the box. Not only was it not a dive, but referee should have given a penalty. At the very least, there was significant doubt about whether Karagounis had dived. If there was contact and there was, how could it be a dive? It affected the outcome of a match – the next one.

Karagounis was the Man of the Match against Russia, but that card ruled him out of the quarter final. Karagounis was certainly an influential player for Greece. His goal won the match and sent Greece into the knock-out stages. How can it not have affected the outcome of the following match when one of Greece’s best players was wrongly ruled out of the quarter final?

It affected Greece’s game plan. They were given no choice but to play a completely different plan to the one they would have used if Karagounis had been available to play as he should have been. In his absence, Greece lost 4-2 to Germany at the Arena Gdansk (Poland). They never had the opportunity to see if he would have made the difference and the referee Eriksson was retained for the knock-out stages despite that error.

The other error was glaring and Greece were victimised by that one too. Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo has a habit of sending people off. During the 2011-12 season in Spain he issued 16 red cards in 19 matches that he refereed.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos received a second yellow card for fouling Poland’s Rafal Murawski just before half time. Even that card was harsh, but the previous one beggared belief. Just before that he received a yellow card for allegedly fouling Robert Lewandowski, but the replays showed that Papastathopoulos had actually won the ball cleanly and fairly.

It was no foul and therefore it could not have been a yellow card. If he did not receive a yellow card then, he would not have been sent off for fouling Murawski and Greece would still have had eleven players on the pitch.

To paraphrase the great author Oscar Wilde: “To give one yellow card wrongly or harshly may be considered a misfortune. To give two is carelessness”!

Impact of Errors

The match ended a 1-1 draw. Lewandowski had put Poland ahead after 17 minutes. Substitute Dimitrios Salpingidis equalised after 51 minutes. A crucial incident occurred on 68 minutes. Poland’s goalkeeper Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny was rightly sent off for a professional foul on Salpingidis. Replacement goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton saved Karagounis’ penalty.

Had the correct decisions been made Greece would not have had Papastathopoulos sent off. Then they would not have had to play 48 minutes plus added time in both halves with ten men and would or at least could if Velasco Carballo did not find reason to send off another Greek player, which he did not do, have had the opportunity to attack Poland with a man advantage for 22 minutes plus added time after Poland had had no option but to make a tactical decision to withdraw midfielder Maciej Rybus – a decision that affected Poland’s attacking options, especially when facing a full compliment of Greeks. How can it possibly be claimed that Velasco Carballo’s decisions, which could have been reviewed with the use of replays – the game had stopped after all to give the fouls and cards – to ensure that the correct decisions were made did not affect the outcome of this match?