Saturday, 21 November 2009

Can McIlroy pull it out of the fire?

Moving to a sport about as far removed from professional football in every respect. Where cheating is just about unheard of, and players are known to call penalties on themselves as a matter of course. Rory McIlroy leads the European Order of Merit going into the final tournament in Dubai, this weekend. He's had a real ding-dong battle with Lee Westwood this year, leapfrogging him to the top spot only last week. But a triple bogey finish in his 3rd round now leaves him 5 behind the "veteran" Westwood, going into the final round. It's not over, but certainly a long-shot now. It's still been an incredible season from the Co. Down man, earning over €2.5 m in 2009, having only turned pro 2 years ago. (He is 20 years younger than yours truly!). Incredibly, Harrington has only won the Order of Merit once in his career (2006). Before that, you have to go back to '89 for Ronan Rafferty's win. In between, Monty won 7 times in a row, then a 6 year gap to win it again the year before Harrington. Maybe Padraig - level with McIlroy in Dubai now - can do McIlroy a favour by reeling in Westwood, who is guaranteed the Order of Merit if he wins this tournament. The incentive to win the Race to Dubai? A cool €1m prize money to top off the season. Nice.

Irish Times report here

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ban Henry for 8 months - A logical argument

[This was written by my brother Jonathan]

I am an amateur footballer and have played competively every season for the last 24 years. I play both gaelic football and (soccer) football. Being an amatuer means I play the game for the love of the game. To play professionally was always a dream of mine (and still is!). Nevertheless I train hard and play fair every week. I would like to take this opportunity to knock a few holes in the arguments of those who cannot or will not accept the blatent reality that Henry is a cheat, did cheat intentionally, and in the interest of football and sport in general should be banned from competitive action for at least 8 months.
First lets look at his statement and analyse its implications -
“I will be honest, it was a handball. But I’m not the ref. I played it, the ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”.
Ok, so by that logic Henry is saying it is perfectly acceptable to cheat if you feel you have a chance of getting away with it, and it is the responsibility of the officials to determine who is cheating and who is competing fairly.
Therefore fair play is optional and at the discretion of the player, while justice is ambiguous and prone to misjudgement and human error.
Are we living on the same planet?
Graeme Souness says "it wasn't intentional, we've all done it, if you've been a professional for five minutes everybodies done it"
So by that logic to move from being an amateur to a professional one must accept and indeed practice the art of cheating. This is the same man who week in and week out slates the likes of Didier Drogba for diving, yet in this instance he has shown his true colours. He believes in cheating, he considers it necessary for professional sport.
Kevin Doyle (surprisingly) says "its a natural reaction, i don't blame the player, if he's done it and got away with it fair dues to him"
Perhaps Kevin is being overly generous, he himself is the epitomy of honesty and I do not believe for a second that had he been in that position he would have done the same. However he lives in a world where cheating is clearly endemic and seems to be brainwashed into believing in the logic of Henrys argument outlined above.
Kevin Kilbane says 'its not so much Theirry Henry, its the officials, the official should have seen it"
I am often accused of swimming against the tide, well so be it, I believe that cheating is cheating, it is totally dishonest and is the total responsibility of the perpetrator and not the officials charged with refereeing the affair. Would you excuse a blatant murderer, whom everyone knew was guilty and who admitted the offence simply because his trial collapsed on a technicality, i think not?

Now lets look at FIFA and the 'Fair Play' movement
Quoting directly from the FIFA Fair Play website...
"The Fair Play Campaign was conceived largely as an indirect result of the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico, when the handball goal by Diego Maradona stimulated the admirable reaction of the England coach, Sir Bobby Robson" and "the campaign has...the unconditional support of ...current [FIFA] President Joseph S. Blatter"
...and from the Fair Play Code...
"1. Play Fair...Playing fair earns respect, while cheating only brings shame. Remember: it is only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly."
"3. Observe the Laws of the Game"
"5. Promote the interests of football ... Think of football's interests before your own. Think how your actions may affect the image of the game.... Encourage other people to watch and play fairly."

Henry has clearly cheated, yet he has laid the blame at the feet of the referee, he has not observed the laws of the game and he has certainly not promoted the interests of football, in fact what he has done is encourage others to cheat if necessary and deflect responsibilty onto others.

He has clearly brought the game of footbal into disrepute.

"9. Denounce those who attempt to discredit our sport ... Do not be ashamed to stand up to anybody who you are sure is trying to make others cheat or engage in other unacceptable behaviour. It is better to expose them and have them removed before they can do any damage. It is equally dishonest to go along with a dishonest act. Do not just say no. Denounce those misguided persons who are trying to spoil our sport before they can persuade somebody else to say yes."

The Fair Play Campaign has the unconditional support of President Sepp Blatter. The argument is therefore clear and unambiguous, he must impose the principles of Fair Play if he is to have any credibility, he must remove Henry from football before he can do any [more] damage'.

The length of the ban is discretionary but at the very least it must include the World Cup, after all what meaning will a few flags with Fair Play written on them have at the greatest show on Earth if the men standing behind the flag are none other than Thierry Henry and Sepp Blatter?

If Blatter does not take the necessary action then it is he who must be removed from football be fore he can do any more damage!!!

Paris, the fallout. What next?

Do any of you really think we should be taking to the streets, and marching on Zurich, to demand a replay? There is nothing in the rulebook to say this is likely to happen - this is not Clare-Offaly in '98. Referees and linesmen make mistakes all the time, it just happens that the consequence of this particular calamity is that France are going to the World Cup, and we are not. Brian Cowen has no place getting involved - this is a populist move by him, just saying what he wants us all to hear. If anything good comes of this, there is now pressure building to introduce video analysis and the Henry incident might be the catalyst. If in addition FIFA condemned what he did, and then put their words where there mouths are by banning him for the next (say) six World Cup matches his team plays - then I think that would be a result. I am as gutted as anyone else at what happened, but let's be honest - there are plenty of other reasons to be taking to the streets in these times.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Football is a laughing stock in 2009

Association Football is now a laughing stock to the world. It's 2009 and FIFA are not using technology like other sports.

Using video replay are: Tennis, Rugby Union, NBA Basketball, NHL Ice Hockey, MLB Baseball, Rugby League, NFL American Football, Cricket, Rodeo, NASCAR motor racing.

The NFL first started experimenting with instant replay in 1986, 23 years ago. In the world cup final in 1966, it was England 2 Germany 2 after 90 minutes. In extra time Geoff Hurst took a shot at goal and the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down, a controversial goal. It's unfathomable that 43 years later, with so many sports having very successful adopted instant replay, that soccer still has this same problem unresolved.

Henry said he told the ref. Let's set some precedent now FIFA for once, like Liam Brady says let's have a replay on French soil.
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