It will be essential that FIFA seriously reviews South Africa 2010, taking special cognisance of the emerging phenomenon of rampant and blatant cheating to win games at all cost. For FIFA’s fair play code “Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure,” to continue to have meaning and significance, this appalling trend must be stopped by descending heavily on culprits to deter future occurrences. The rules of the game have evolved over the years to improve discipline and fair play and thus making the game look increasingly more beautiful and gradually becoming more scientific. In this regard, it will be vital that the football governing body, seriously examines and revises the rules vis-a-vis the many controversial incidences witnessed at South Africa 2010 in order to better future tournaments. Instances of cheats emerging to become heroes and glorified are too rampant to be considered mere coincidences.
Besides many others, the very serious ones that immediately come to mind include the glorification of Diego Maradona for his so called “Hand of God” cheat goal during quarter-finals match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup between Argentina and England. To date Maradona looks back to that act with much pride. I am not aware of any instance where he has expressed remorse about that cheat and advised upcoming players to desist from such acts. Maybe he has, I do not know.
Recently there were calls that FIFA should sanction a replay of the world cup qualifier between France and Ireland when it was obvious that Thierry Henry used his double hand ball to qualify France to the World Cup South Africa 2010, instead of Ireland. FIFA did not allow a replay of the match but at least a deterring punishment would have been to ban Thierry Henry from playing in this World Cup. He was allowed to go scot free. FIFA’s defence was that its disciplinary panel could not punish the player because the referee and his assistants did not spot his cheating during the game. What a sad argument, what are replays for? Instead he became an instant hero in France.
If a heavy punishment had been handed Thierry Henry at the time perhaps, the Uruguayan player Luis Suarez would have been more cautious in doing what he did knowing the serious consequences that would have befallen him. But listen to him “I think I made the best save of the World Cup,”. He now arrogates the “Hand of God” title to himself. How sad! Ideally that act should have automatically disqualified him from continuing in the tournament but the rules as they stand now do not say so. Until the rules are revised and players are subjected to harsh consequences for cheating, this blatant indulgent in it will render meaningless FIFA’s fair play and mar the beauty of the game.
The importance of goals in the determination of the result of football matches cannot be overemphasized. For this reason it is crucial to review seriously any acts that adversely affect the achievement of this important ingredient in football games. An instance is the penalty situation. It is becoming obvious that punishment to the opposing team is not highly certain as they deserve but rather in some cases reward them. In short a penalty award may or may not be a punishment depending on the circumstances. This is because due to pressure and some other emotional factors, sometimes these kicks are missed.
Suarez gambled knowing very well this likelihood and was rewarded for that illegal act. He was duly red carded and Ghana awarded penalty in accordance with the current laws. But Ghana missed the kick. The result, Uruguay in the semis, Ghana out! Suarez did not show any indication he cheated but emphasized later that being expelled from the match “was worth it” given that his country advanced in the tournament. I am sure presented with the same scenario, he will do it again should he play in the grand finals or in the third place match. The question then is where lies the punishment in the case where a kick is missed? The cheat feels gladdened and justified for doing wrong whereas the one engaging in fair play becomes disadvantaged.
For this reason some players will prefer to "sacrifice" themselves to be sent off by fouling and preventing the opponent from scoring hoping for the possibility of their opponents missing the resultant penalty kick. Indeed the FIFA fair play code was seriously compromised when Uruguay got to the semis and Ghana dropped though it was too obvious to the world the better team to have advanced. If FIFA does not review these rules, there is the tendency of future repeat of such acts in football at all levels.
We must all note that future young footballers are watching their so called heroes and are waiting to emulate more of the “Hands of God” cheatings of their role models. FIFA must stop this now!
The rules must be modified to significantly increase the chances of teams scoring or successfully converting a penalty and thus reducing the “hope” of the culprits for the kick to be missed. This must be done by awarding the opponents at least two chances of penalty kick instead of the current one kick for offences other than goal-line or near goal-line hand blocking (Suarezation) of goal scoring. On taking the first correct kick, if the player scores, the team is awarded the goal and the game resumes. If the kick is missed the same player must take a second correct kick.
However, in the case of "suarezation" of goal scoring, it is being suggested by many that the referee declare it as a goal. But since the ball has not crossed the goal line it will be difficult for it be considered a goal. In a situation of "suarezation" of goal scoring, therefore, what should be done is the referee should signal three chances of penalty kicks besides the other punitive actions he is supposed to take. If the first correct kick scores, the goal is awarded and game then resumes. If the kick is missed, the same player must take a second correct kick. If he scores the game resumes, if not a third and final correct kick must be taken.
This is possible without affecting the game because already sometimes when a penalty is not correctly taken, the referee can ask that it is retaken. In athletics, an athlete is convinced beyond doubt about the inability to overcome a hurdle after failing three legal attempts. This principle can also apply in the case of penalty kicks. This Two or Three-Chance Kick system will greatly increase the chances of scoring a penalty awarded and would reduce the likelihood of any player wanting to stop a goal due to the high chance of a penalty being missed.
It is hoped that such modification in the penalty rules coupled with harsh player punishments will go a long way to minimize significantly incidences of goal area fouls aimed at preventing legitimate goal scoring opportunities.
Finally, congratulations to the Ghana Black Stars! The pride of Africa, you are worthy heroes. The world has witnessed your greatness and will be looking out for you again in 2014. Congratulations South Africa! You said hosting the world is possible and yes, you have done exactly that. Congratulations Africa! We surely will conquer the world someday.
By Samuel Amiteye
International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) Jena, University of Heidelberg, Germany. [email protected]