I thought I was angry a few weeks ago when Thierry Henry’s slight of hand ended Ireland’s World Cup hopes on the field of playâ€”but then I saw Sepp Blatter yesterday, and now I’m flippin fuming.
OK, the grovelling plea by the FAI to be included in the 2010 World Cup draw as a 33rd side was in many ways laughable and embarrassing, but the decision of FIFA’s boss to make public that request has only added insult to what was an egregious injury.
Football can be a very cruel game, leaving a very sour taste in the mouth at times. But while I can accept that what happened in Paris is part of the game – there was no conspiracy, just opportunism by a player and poor positioning by officials – I find it much harder to accept that the governing body would compound that injustice and sense of hurt by publicising, no ridiculing, a private request from the association of the wounded party.
Of course, it was highly unlikely that Ireland would have been accommodated in Friday’s draw for the finals – for the very reasons outlined by FIFA. But however unrealistic the notion, FIFA should surely have understood the motives and kept the request to themselves. Missing out on the finals has not only dealt a blow to the hopes and dreams of Irish players and fans, it has robbed the FAI of the kind of commercial windfall that a football association that relies heavily on the fortunes of its national side can ill afford. The more so when you are struggling to raise money to pay towards the building of a new stadium.
John Delaney, the FAI’s chief, claims that the association does not budget on the expectation that it will reap the financial benefits that qualification for major tournaments would bring. Nevertheless, with money becoming scarcer, those extra funds would have been more than welcome in helping to maintain investment in Irish soccer at all levels.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why FAI rolled the dice as they did. What had they to lose by taking such a punt? Clearly, FAI officials had not banked on public humiliation.
The rules of the game mean that the result in Paris will stand and that Ireland will not be involved in Friday’s jamboree. While hard to take, we can grudgingly accept it and hope that we get a break in our favour in the future. That’s the game.
However, there is nothing in the rulebook that protects the likes of Sepp Blatter and says that we should take his slights lying down. At the very least, the father of “Fair Play” should offer a sincere apology. But having witnessed Blatter’s mirth when telling the world about what the silly old Irish had asked for, shoving a FIFA Fair Play flag in one end of football’s uber bureaucrat and out the other would bring considerably more satisfaction.