Tag Archives: FIFA

Diego Costa Scratched Gabriel's neck

It’s hard to use video replay when your head is in the sand

There is a fundamental disconnect between the way that the game of football is played and the way that the game of football is viewed. On the pitch, there’s one referee and two linesmen. Players like Diego Costa wait until they know the official isn’t looking and then they do things to the opposition players, like smack them in the face. Watch the entire foul Costa commits on Koscielny, he is watching Mike Dean, the official, to make sure Dean doesn’t see it and then he hits Koscielny in the face.

This is what I mean by a fundamental disconnect. We, the viewers, get to see this behavior replayed a thousand times moments after it happens. People in the stands and most critically the officials, don’t get to see the replay until after the match is over.

Dean doesn’t see what actually happened but he is still forced to make a decision because a fracas breaks out. He didn’t see that Costa struck an opponent in the face, twice. He sees Gabriel step in to protect a teammate and acts on the second melee, correctly showing yellow cards to both players. But had he seen the first incident, Diego Costa would have been sent off and the entire situation would have been defused. Instead, Costa stays on and knowing that he’s inside Gabriel’s head, he turns the screw. Gabriel reacts, Costa and Fabregas demand that Gabriel is sent off, and now, with all eyes on the pair, the linesman finally sees something and Gabriel is sent off.

But the injustice is that Costa shouldn’t have been there to wind Gabriel up. If Costa was properly dealt with, Arsenal would have played with 11 men and Chelsea with 10. Instead it was the other way round and Arsenal lost a game that they probably should have won.

It’s such a clear case of injustice that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger challenged Dean and the FA to watch the tapes again and see if they stand by their decisions over Gabriel and Costa:

“I would like them, especially Mike Dean, to look at the whole action that happened during the game and see if he stands for his decision.”

Video replay would have absolutely solved this problem and prevented the injustice. But sadly, the FA and PGMOL (the group that runs the officials in the Premier League) have their heads in the sand and refuse to “re-referee” matches by using post-match video technology to punish players like Costa. And the game’s governing body, FIFA, just last Spring rejected Holland’s application to run a trial of video technology pushing any chance of in-match video refereeing to 2018.

I know all of the arguments against video technology: it will slow play down, it will be difficult to stop play, and there are questions about how to restart the game after video technology is used. Ostensibly this is why FIFA rejected Holland’s application to use video replay. Those are legitimate concerns and issues that need to be addressed before the widespread use of video technology.

But what about fights? They don’t happen very often and when they do they are usually incorrectly punished. In other words, the officials rarely get to see what happens to instigate the fight and rather react to the reaction and then the officials typically end up punishing the guy who retaliates. Using video technology to get the calls right regarding fights would not disrupt the flow of the game, wouldn’t be difficult to restart, and would clean up the injustices that occur when the wrong players are sent off.

Just like the way that FIFA allowed the use of goal line technology to get those very few calls right, they should allow the use of video technology to make sure that they are policing fights properly. Fights have no place in the game and they need to be punished properly with the instigators severely sanctioned.

But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for FIFA to implement any video technology. This is an organization which rakes in millions of dollars every year. Until players sue them for their negligence on the video technology issue, they have no incentive to change.

However, the Football Association can implement rules that circumvent the FIFA rules and introduce post-match review. Major League Soccer introduced post-match video replay to punish divers and other misdeeds back in 2011. Not only does MLS review their own matches but MLS players are subject to MLS post-match review for non-MLS matches. Clint Dempsey was banned for 3 MLS games when he tore up a referee’s notebook in a US Open Cup match. This is the equivalent of the Premier League reviewing a player’s conduct in a UEFA Cup match and suspending him from Premier League matches as a result.

Currently the FA hides behind a loophole in regards to video technology: they won’t review an incident unless none of the officials saw what happened (or if it’s spectacularly heinous like when Ben Thatcher elbowed Pedro Mendes). If both Mike Dean and all of his assistants say that they didn’t see Diego Costa strike Laurent Koscielny, then and only then will the FA act.

I understand that the FA wants to stand by their referees and refuses to second guess them. But we fans have seen time and again how the referees get these calls wrong and then the FA will say, “well the referee saw the incident” so by refusing to acknowledge the mistakes, the FA are actually making their referees look worse. The FA are standing by referees who are publicly saying that they got the calls wrong. It’s almost as if they feel like two wrongs make a right.

Unfortunately all of this is hypothetical. As of right now, the FA won’t be introducing post-match video any time soon and FIFA seems a long way off allowing any type of video replay, even for fights which seems like such a simple change that they could do it overnight if they wanted. Arsenal fans and Chelsea fans are going to be left waiting to hear from Mike Dean about whether he saw Diego Costa slapping Laurent Koscielny.

I hope, for Dean’s sake, that he didn’t see the incident. Because imagine the level of incompetence required to see Diego Costa slap Laurent Koscielny, twice, and not even consider it a foul? That would be worse than the incident itself. And if the FA has a referee in their midst who can’t get that kind of call right, and they stand by that referee, English football is in real danger of becoming about as believable as professional wrestling.



Sepp Blatter: Say Hello to My Little Friend

If you’ve seen one gangster movie, you’ve seen them all. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lavish production with big named actors like the Godfather trilogy, a cheesy story about a crack dealer staring Ice T like New Jack City, or even Thelma and Louise. Each and every gangster movie basically ends the same way, in a blaze of glory. And just like every other gangster movie I was kind of hoping that the end of FIFA would be at least a little dramatic. Like maybe Sepp Blatter would hold a press conference at his home, pop out onto a gaudy balcony, yell out “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”, and start firing one of those tee-shirt cannons full of euros at all the collected media types.

But real life is boring. Despite being one of the biggest criminal gangs in the world, the fall of FIFA head Sepp Blatter didn’t end in a dramatic shootout. It ended with a resignation. It was the dramatic equivalent of Tony Montana throwing wet ladyfingers at his enemies.

For his next move Blatter will probably abscond to some country with no extradition treaty with the USA, like Russia, and spend the rest of his life in exile — wealthy, wealthy, exile. Вы говорите по-русски, Sepp? Well, you better learn!


And now that Sepp has stepped aside everyone in world football is dreaming big about what FIFA might become. Well, you might as well go ahead and stop dreaming now because despite Sepp Blatter stepping down I will bet you dollars to donuts that FIFA doesn’t change much. Because the problem with FIFA isn’t just Sepp Blatter and his criminal gang. The problem with FIFA is the entire structure.

There is a fantastic article on the Washington Post which details both how Sepp Blatter maintained his power and the complex global politics at the heart of FIFA. While everyone knew that FIFA was corrupt, while they had executives arrested, people pleading guilty, admissions of ticket stealing, and while Blatter kept making ridiculous pronouncements about race, gender, and sexuality, Sepp Blatter kept getting re-elected and my friends kept asking how.

The answer is simple, there are 209 nations in FIFA and every one gets just one vote.  So, France has the same voting power as Trinidad and Tobago. That is how Blatter held on to power, by catering to small countries. He almost literally didn’t care what countries like England and the USA had to say about his governance. There were more than enough votes in the small countries, countries which can be controlled easily, for him to maintain power.

FIFA also governs player transfers. By the laws of game players are not actually allowed to say no to international call ups. If a player tried to refuse to play in Qatar or Russia on the moral grounds that they refuse to be party to homophobic, racist, human rights violations, the player can be banned from club play.

FIFA uses its power to compel big name players to play in special, one-off, tournaments. For example, the USA is set to host the 2016 “Centenario” of the Copa America. That’s right, Messi, Neymar, and Alexis Sanchez are going to be playing in a special Copa America in Seattle and other places in the USA, the first Copa America ever held outside of Latin America, on the centenary of the founding of the Copa America. Just one year after their previous Copa America which follows the World Cup. South American players won’t be getting a single moment’s rest for three years straight.

And while the world has been wringing their hands over World Cup bribery and wondering why Qatar gets a world cup when they have no history of soccer, have no soccer infrastructure, and have a history of horrible human rights violations the real corruption has been passing right before our very eyes. It’s all about sponsorship money: $1.6bn in sponsorship money.

The Department of Justice’s case against FIFA turned up $150m in bribes.  And that’s just what they turned up here in North America. The indictment makes it clear, FIFA have operated like a mafia for over 20 years:

The indictment alleges that, between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering.  Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.  All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.

Maybe it’s just CONCACAF and COMNEBOL where this money laundering, bribery, and fraud has been taking place? I doubt it. There was a revelation today that FIFA paid $5m to the FA of Ireland so that they would drop their lawsuit against France over the infamous Hand of Gaul. And we’ve already heard some rumors about the Qatar World Cup bid being tied to massive commercial giveaways. I suppose we will have to wait to see the results of those investigations.

But in the end, this is an astonishing level of corruption, more than most of us even thought. It is corruption spanning over 20 years, with a price tag of at least $150m, and involving a host of FIFA vice-presidents and multinational sports marketing corporations. It looks like systemic corruption in an organization which only adopted ethics rules in 2004.

So, sure, dream of changing FIFA. Maybe we can all wish that there will be fewer pointless International friendlies? Maybe we can all wish that the new head of FIFA limits the absurd menagerie of pre- and post- World Cup tournaments that players are forced to participate in? But with all the money at stake, with number of international tournaments on the rise, and with the players almost enslaved to FIFA’s governance of player transfers… I wouldn’t bet on it.



FIFA Law 18 – Biting an Opponent

Biting is a natural stage of development that many players go through. Players will sometimes become tired and agitated and with limited ability to communicate will react with a lack of self control. FIFA referees are encouraged to tell players to “use their words” if they become aware of any impending aggressive physical conduct like biting.

Despite our best intentions, sometimes biting occurs during an argument with a player from PSV.  Sometimes biting will occur when a player becomes frustrated with Branislav Ivanovich a Chelsea player well known for being frustrating.  And sometimes biting will occur with the eyes of the world watching at a World Cup Match for no reason other than the fact that the player is have a poor match. In the event of the latter it is often the case that the player who bites will fall to the ground and clutch his teeth, feigning injury to himself.

FIFA would like to assure parents, children, the British media, the Uruguayan media, and the infirm that we take biting seriously. FIFA’s main goal in any biting incident is to protect both players from further harm. In order to accomplish that goal FIFA referees will take the following steps if they witness a biting incident:

  • FIFA referees are instructed to use their “daddy voice” and firmly tell the player “NO BITING.”
  • The bitten player will be comforted. Given an ice cream cone and calmed down.
  • The biter will be removed from the situation with a red card and given something soothing to do while in the locker room waiting for their teammates to finish the match. Something like playing with choo choo trains.

Should the FIFA referee not see the incident, FIFA shall appoint a governing committee to open an investigation into the incident. This committee will review video evidence, gifs, memes, shoops, Reddit forums, 4-Chan, and parody blog posts like this one.

FIFA would like to remind everyone that it is completely normal for the families of the victims and families and friends of the biter to overreact to a biting incident.

Often, the biter’s family will become immediately defensive and call the victim names like “snitch” and offer threats like “snitches get stitches” and “Chiellini needs to sack up, yo, and take it like a man. His team lost, bro, that’s the only reason why he’s crying like a little baby.” The biter’s family will also almost always deny that the bite actually occurred. “He fell on to my son’s teeth” is an excuse heard on pitches all over the world.

The victim’s family also needs to calm down. First off, and let’s be honest here, your kid is no angel. Chiellini is the kind of player who left his foot in on a tackle with Robin van Persie. A tackle Martin Keown called “a reducer”. Ok? And suggestions that Suarez should be banned for life or put into prison are quite far off the mark. FIFA isn’t even sure we can actually ban him from domestic duty much less “ban him from playing football for life” as many have suggested and sending people to jail is not something FIFA does. Except when we did that one time in South Africa.

FIFA would like to assure everyone that we are committed to rehabilitating the biter. His behavior should be redirected into something more constructive. And we recommend teaching the biter to use his words and improve his communications skills when frustrated so that incidents like this don’t happen a fourth, fifth, or sixth time.

It’s ok, everyone, we’re FIFA, we got this. We will let you all know what punishment the biter will get, if any.



Did Arsenal “dodge a bullet” with Suarez? Yes because I think everyone saw this coming. He was so unapologetic about all of his previous behavior that it was obvious he had no remorse for his transgressions. In fact, if anything, his constant blame shifting indicates a victim’s mentality. It’s our fault that Luis acts like this. And yes again if FIFA can somehow make the FA (or whatever FA he is governed by next year) impose a domestic ban. This incident further tarnishes a player who is now starting to look like damaged goods. This reduces his transfer value and any further transgressions (there will be more!) will be punished ruthlessly by the Football Association if he stays in England. Liverpool have made their bed and now they have to lie in it, with Suarez. And he bites.

Lost in all of this is that Suarez was having a terrible match. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: it seems his m.o. that in big matches he loses it. He doesn’t play particularly well, his scoring record against top clubs last year was dreadful, and he occasionally goes “full Suarez” and commits a racism, bites someone, or just flops around on the pitch like a fish out of water.

Also lost in all this is the fact that Mario Balotelli had a shoddy World Cup, culminating in one of the worst performances of his career in this match against Uruguay. Watching Ciro Immobile (the most apt of aptronyms) trundle around up front for Italy it was painfully obvious why Italy picked Balotelli to start. Watching Balotelli play for three games in a half-hearted, third-rate, way it was also as painfully obvious why Italy couldn’t score. What a real shame this young man’s career has become and it’s no surprise that Wenger has ruled out Balotelli coming to Arsenal. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal were running the rule over him at this World Cup and decided that the player would never live up to his talent.

Now, Arsenal fans can go back to hoping that Arsenal buy Sanchez off Barcelona! It seems unlikely that Barcelona will continue to pursue a Suarez for Sanchez swap. Good, because Sanchez has been excellent at this World Cup: he shows all of the fire of a player like Suarez and none of the bite. Hopefully, Arsenal can take some of that money we earned from the brilliant bit of business with Carlos Vela and Real Sociedad and parlay that into a world class player like Sanchez.