FIFA’s International Call-up Rules Clear up Essien Mess

I admit that I can be as lazy as your average Journo, though I don’t consider myself a Journo. Point in case, yesterday, 7amkickoff published a story about Arsenal pursuing action through FIFA to have Chelsea investigated for playing Michael Essien “illegally.” Almost every report I read yesterday contained a brief mention that Chelsea could be possibly even docked points for playing Essien though we all know that the the more likely punishment in the form of a sternly worded warning like:

Messers Abramovich and Chelsea, Please do not violate FIFA rules again (again) or we might have to do something that we will rescind later, as we did in the Gael Kakuta case. Thank you and please no polonium in our Corn Flakes, thank you sorry for bothering you thank you…

Sincerely and with all deference, FIFA

I took the whole thing a bit seriously and even went to the Ghana FA web site for some quotes, which even the Telegraph and others (ESPN, etc) didn’t do, so I felt like I had covered most of the bases.

Until one of my regular readers asked if anyone knew which FIFA rule Chelsea had supposedly violated — DOH… Well, yeah, I (and anyone else who reported on the story) probably should have looked that up.

The problem is that the rule itself is actually kind of hard to find, because it’s hidden in a rule set called “Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.”

Once I found it, the rule itself is pretty straight forward:

Article 5 Restrictions on playing

A player who has been called up by his association for one of its
representative teams is, <b>unless otherwise agreed by the relevant association,</b> not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe. This restriction on playing for the club shall, moreover, be prolonged by five days in the event that the player, for whatsoever reason, did not wish to or was unable to comply with the call-up.

Basically the Ghana FA (not Arsenal or anyone else) has to complain and ask that the player be banned, FIFA then tells the FA of their responsibility and they then decide whether to ban the player in question. I still think that this leaves a lot of room for corruption and collusion, but that’s a whole ‘nother article.

The Ghana FA is not pursuing a ban, they have fined him and his 2 other teammates and made him apologize. Full Stop.

Oh, one last detail that I uncovered in researching this. There have been two notable times in the past where players have either been threatened with a ban or actually had FIFA ban them; Nicolas Anelka and Mark Viduka.

Both players “pulled an Essien” and refused to show up for an International friendly after their national sides called them up. In the case of Anelka, the FFF threatened a ban but in typical French fashion quickly surrendered and asked the English FA to pursue the matter. They didn’t and Anelka played.

Viduka, on the other hand refused to fly to Venezuela for a friendly and his National association, the Australian Soccer Association (ASA), vigorously pursued a ban and Viduka missed a crucial game against Manchester United. Leeds were relegated that season and have never been back up in the Premier League. There was some fallout among the ASA players, who were angered by the ASA’s treatment of Viduka and perhaps my Antipodean reader(s?) can comment on that.

Irregardless, the point is that it’s the National side who hold all the cards, which makes this Essien flap a non-story as far as I can tell… except maybe we all learned a little about FIFA rules!

Do you think any “real” reporters will read this and learn something?


Arsenal News?

Not really much going on in Arsenal world today. Denilson picked up a back injury and most of us are hoping is not a recurrence of the back problems which kept him out of the side for the last few months. We need him healthy for the dark months of January when Song departs for the ACN.

The good news is that Eboue will be healthy and available and I suspect that the boss will look to replace Sagna with Eboue for tomorrow’s clash, giving the Frenchman a well deserved rest.

I expect the dot com will release Wenger’s presser later this afternoon and so I’ll give a match preview tomorrow.

See you then, if not sooner, since I have another article idea kicking around in my head — maybe it will kick its way out of my head and into the computer?

The FA to Dock Chelsea Points for Playing Essien?

The one thing we know for sure is that Arsenal are sticklers for the rules.

During the last International break, Wenger’s side responded, grudgingly as they always do, to all international call-ups and sent nearly all their players off to participate with their national sides in both pointless friendlies and in their one-off World Cup qualification matches. Arsenal fans remember the break well for it was in one of those friendlies that Arsenal lost Robin van Persie for 5 months to an agricultural challenge from Italy’s Chiellini.

Chelsea, on the other hand, mysteriously had several players injured and thus ruled ineligible and even had Michael Essien simply refuse to show up to his international friendly. I mentioned it as very suspicious here on this blog the day it happened. It turns out that what Chelsea did, by playing Essien in their match against Wolves and then against Arsenal may have violated FIFA rules and may force the FA to dock Chelsea points. When a player refuses to answer an international call-up, he is forbidden from playing club football for 5 days, and usually the country so offended is the one who protests thus keeping the player out.

In this case, the Ghana FA, incredibly, are reported to have written a note for both Essien and his Black Stars teammate Sully Muntari (who plays for Inter) excusing their absence and saying that they could both play in their next league games. Inter disregarded the note, presumably not wanting to court problems, and sat Muntari while Chelsea is holding the note high and saying it excuses them from the rules.

Not so fast says Arsene Wenger:

Essien didn’t play for Ghana, but still played against us. He was not entitled to do so. We will investigate to see if there has been a breach of the regulations.

If they have a letter, they have a letter, but I don’t know that. It doesn’t look so simple to me. If everything’s in order, then fine, but I do not know. That’s for the lawyers.

Talk of conspiracy and collusion was bound to be amplified when it was revealed that Essien might also miss the Africa Cup of Nations with injury and that possibly the GFA was going to send their own doctors to assess Essien’s injury. For their part the Ghana FA are denying that there’s any wrong doing

The Ghana Football Association does not believe there’s any conspiracy on the part of any of the injured players or their clubs to invent an injury. They are professionals who have a sense of credibility.

This whole mess is even further confused by the Ghana FA Vice President being quoted as saying the GFA “was unaware any permission had been granted” to Chelsea to play Essien in League play. This quote is being denied, a bit, but not outright:

I had a call from the guy last week asking whether we were going to complain against the use of Essien by Chelsea because he had stayed away from our game.

I made it clear to him that I was out of the country and would not be in the position to know so he should call later when I was back in town.

He hasn’t called me up till now. I find it improper for them to put out something within that context as a basis to doubt another argument.

It’s so wrong to do that. I have still not got a call from the guy for the GFA’s official position and on the matter they are reporting today.

That is a classic example of “weasel words:” skirting around the issue but not issuing a declarative statement. For example, the official position of the GFA is?

But from an Arsenal standpoint, the problem is that if all the countries don’t apply the rules the same then there is a potential for collusion. Just as one example, some countries, who need their star players more than others, will write notes “excusing their absence” while other countries who have a more well developed football association and larger talent pool will prosecute the clubs and force key players either to risk injury in pointless international friendlies or to sit on the bench in key League matches.

Wenger and Arsenal plan to find out what, if any, rules have been violated and whether any action could be taken against Chelsea for what at the least looks to be a major bending of the rules and at most could have been outright collusion in order to gain an advantage in the League.

If it’s the latter, some folks are suggesting that Chelsea could be docked points.

Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal; the Arshavin, the Webb, and the Injuries

Keep dreaming, Howard

Quote of the Day, Year, Decade

The boss screamed at us like I’ve never seen at half-time. He said we were not fit to wear the Arsenal shirt, and he was right. We were not good.

Captain Cesc Fabregas on why Arsenal’s second half was light years ahead of their first.

Match Reports

Telegraph: Liverpool suffered their second home embarrassment in five days as Arsenal grabbed the points in a game which was supposed to be a new beginning for the Anfield side.

ESPNSoccernet: Liverpool suffered their second home embarrassment in five days as Arsenal grabbed a 2-1 victory in a game which was supposed to be a new beginning for the Anfield men (seriously, that’s what they plagiarized, I mean, “wrote.)”

Match Video

The Arsenalist’s videos are fresh, and hot!

The Arshavin

No need to have a special section for Man of the Match when Arshavin takes it hands down (except the Telegraph who gave it to Denilson(!)). Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that Song was huge, massive, a monster in this game, but I have to give it to Arshavin because his shot was just that important.

I was literally biting my pillow the whole match (it’s cold and I feel ill so I piled a bunch of blankets and pillows on me) but when Arsenal threatened down the right then swung it wide for Sanga who put in a decent cross which fell to Arshavin’s feet, I threw the pillow down and got to my feet because I just knew it was going to be a magical moment.

Arshavin didn’t disappoint, unleashing one of his trademark short back-lift right-footed crackers which left Reina stock still, hit the post and went in. I think I screamed “YOU BEAUTY!!!” but I don’t remember, I sort of blacked out after that.

Speaking of blacking out, as soon as the goal went in you could suddenly see the Liverpool players give up. They started just going through the motions at that point and never looked like they were going to draw level. I think they knew, even if they did draw the match, Arsenal were just going to go ahead again, after all, we have Arshavin.

So, all credit to Vermaelen, Gallas, Traore, Song, and Sagna who did very well against Liverpool at Anfield, but Man of the Match has to be Arshavin.

The Webb

Before the match I had the outrage cannon firmly pointed at Howard Webb. I was fully expecting the typically anti-Arsenal match from him, and frankly, I was surprised.

He’s still garbage and clearly one of the worst refs in England, but today he was garbage in favor of Arsenal. Liverpool had several penalty shouts that fell on deaf ears today, but none more controversial than Rooney, I mean, Gerrard’s shout. There are legitimate reasons why he wouldn’t give a penalty there: as when Rooney got a pen against Arsenal earlier in the season, Webb might have thought that Gerrard had no chance of getting the ball. That’s a legitimate reason not to give the pen, a legitimate reason which is never used, but a legitimate reason no less.

Still, Gallas did wipe Gerrard out. Hell, there were fouls in midfield which were softer than that and earned the perpetrator a yellow.

If the shirts were switched (and for some reason Liverpool were wearing blue — which is as stupid as Arsenal wearing blue) I would be absolutely livid right now, Howard Webb had his usually shocking match. For once it went in favor of Arsenal. Maybe this was his way of thanking us for trading Adebayor; he hated him that much.

I have to give a “bad out” to Diaby, Almunia, and Denilson (first half) who I thought had very poor matches. Diaby, and I’m not joking here, Diaby should be put up front as the Center Forward because his ability on the wings is, uhh, not good and he’s not helping much in the middle of the park either.

He came on for Walcott, who had been playing as the third man in the attacking chevron and who had been moved over to the left and was effectively pegging back Glen Johnson and he promptly installed himself, well, hell I couldn’t tell because he was all over the pitch. He didn’t win a single header, his touch was poor, he turned the ball over several times, Geln Johnson started getting forward, and the best thing he did was leave the ball for Traore who went on the run which seemed to tear his hamstring!

Almunia, sigh… I don’t want to pick on him but he came out the other day and said that he was 100% mentally and physically ready to help his team. I hope to the gods that today’s performance wasn’t him at 100%.

Denilson was a tale of two halves. I thought he was having a shocker in the first half and was actually lucky to still be on after his high boot on Mascherano (another example of Webb’s bizarre match). But his second half was far better, maybe he changed boots or maybe the boss singled him out with his half-time hair dryer. Whatever the cause, he was pretty solid in the 2nd half and kudos to him for sorting that out.

Still, I’m worried about Alex Song going to the ACN, on the face of this and several other performances Diaby and Denilson are going to really struggle to fill his massive boots.

The Injuries

We don’t have anything official from the dot com but fingers, toes, arms, legs, peckers, any and everything crossed that Traore’s hamstring isn’t the normal “three weeks” out. I have seen his replacement and his name is Silvestre. Traore pulled up after a long run at the end of the match and it was pretty clear that he had a tight hamstring.


And we may yet get a chance to see Diaby as Center Forward since Arshavin limped off after his metatarsals hit one of the Liverpool defenders and he was taken off.


Timmy’s Final Thoughts

It was a mixed bag of good luck and bad luck today which sees us get a vital three points on a weekend where all of the other top teams dropped points, and Tottenham lost. There are only 7 points between the top four and while Arsenal have scored 40 goals already, we don’t have the best goal differential, that honor goes to Chelsea — our co-leaders in goal scoring. It could be a lot worse, a lot of folks rate Arsenal the same as Liverpool and when you look at the table, they are level on points with… BIRMINGHAM. I know that Arsenal are better than Birmingham, and I have to think that Liverpool are better than their league position indicates.

There’s a lot of football left but Arsenal have a lot of injured and rusty players, we need to get a good run here in the next month. Which means we really need some luck with injuries for once. We’ve got the talent, but we need to keep them out of the injury room, gain more confidence, score some goals and start to really put pressure on the other top two.

Great win today boys, keep your chins up, we are the Arsenal!