Trapattoni Slams FIFA For ‘Killing Football’ With Playoff Decision

Giovanni Trapattoni Ireland FIFA World Cup 2010Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is not amused by FIFA’s bungling

The timing was definitely odd. Usually in professional sport, the norm is that you have the rules of the competition laid out for everybody before it begins. That way all involved know exactly where they stand and any room for misunderstandings is minimised. Pretty basic stuff, right?

Well, if you are FIFA apparently not. Because, rather than get all the rules and criteria for World Cup qualification established early, Sepp Blatter and co waited until only two games of the European World Cup qualification group stages were left to announce that they will be using a seeding system for the European play-offs.

It took a recent meeting in Rio da Janeiro for FIFA President Blatter and co to finally get round to working out exactly how they will arrange the play-offs. “We have decided on seeding the teams into two groups of four, taking the FIFA world rankings into account, with the top four in one pot and the others in another pot,” Blatter told the world at the end of September.

“There will be a separate draw to decide home and away,” he added of the two-legged ties that will determine four European places at South Africa 2010.

An angry Trap

The decision to seed the play-offs will be seen by many as a conscious effort by FIFA to favour the traditionally strong nations that are currently struggling to make it out of their groups. The likes of France, Portugal and Germany all face the prospect of a play-off should they finish runners-up in their respective groups, and FIFA’s ruling makes it far less likely they will have to play each other for a place at the World Cup.

Instead, lesser nations who have fought hard to get to where they are, with fewer resources, have been denied the chance of a random draw and now face a daunting two-legged play-off against one of the highest ranked teams in the world. This infinitely hampers the chances of nations like Latvia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ireland making it to the World Cup. Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni reacted furiously to the decision, describing it as “like killing football,” while Ireland keeper Shay Given called it “disgusting.”

“This solution is a bit like killing football,”
Trapattoni told Italian media ahead of Ireland’s crunch game with Italy. “A few years ago the big European clubs thought about creating a ‘SuperLeague’, but they abandoned the idea because they saw the risks of this. This is a similar solution. Every national team has the same rights, and making a seeded draw goes against this principle. But of course, the business of the big teams controls everything.”

Manchester City goalkeeper Given also waded into the debate. “It’s incredible that FIFA has taken a decision like this precisely when the bigger teams are struggling to qualify. It’s actually disgusting,” he claimed. Ireland are four points behind Italy in second place of their group, so almost certainly face a play-off to go to South Africa.

Incompetence or a deliberate plot?

Unfortunately for FIFA and Blatter, both the decision and it’s timing open them up to accusations of favouring the larger nations. After all, the bigger nations provide more lucrative sponsorship deals and within the halls of FIFA Germany have far more influence than, say – Slovenia.

But, assuming for a moment that rigging the draw to aid the big countries’ chances of going to the World Cup was not the motive, why did FIFA wait so long to announce this decision?

The match schedule for World Cup 2010 qualification was determined on 6th January 2008. And in Europe, qualifiers began in September of that same year. So why did Blatter allow another year to pass before announcing the rules for the play-offs?

FIFA’s lack of transparency here smacks of a gross lack of organisation at best. At worst, it is a conscious and cynical decision to lubricate the larger nations’ path to South Africa. While the rules have not necessarily been changed (the 2006 UEFA play-offs were seeded too), allowing people to assume an open draw would take place and then suddenly announcing a seeding system just weeks before the end of qualifying will be taken by many as a sign of favouritism – accusations FIFA could easily have avoided with a bit more clarity and decisiveness.

What do you think? Is Trapattoni right? Can FIFA’s actions here be put down to sheer organisational incompetence? Or is there something more sinister going on behind the scenes?

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6 Responses to “Trapattoni Slams FIFA For ‘Killing Football’ With Playoff Decision”

  1. Geoff
    October 8, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    I think the fact that the play offs were seeded for the 2006 World Cup shows that it was only incompetence on FIFA's part rather than anything more sinister. Really disappointing though. It would have been great to see, for example, Germany and France battling it out for a place at the World Cup. I was really hoping to see the likes of Bosnia and Ireland heading to South Africa too. That's not to say that it couldn't still happen of course.

  2. Just Football
    October 9, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    I agree with you Geoff, it probably is mostly down to FIFA incompetence. But I reckon there is definitely also an element of wanting to cosy up to the big nations and appease nervous sponsors.

    FIFA held an event at their HQ in Switzerland in the last few weeks at which several major sponsors unveiled their marketing campaigns for 2010 etc. I can't imagine there was no nudging FIFA to urge them to do all they can to make sure the World Cup is not without Ribery, Messi, Ronaldo and co.

    For lesser nations like Latvia and Bosnia it can't be taken as anything other than a massive slap in the face to hear these arrangements now, so close to making the playoffs.

    I'd probably suggest its 60% incompetence 40% a deliberate ploy.

  3. Fennell
    October 9, 2009 at 1:56 am #

    At least Trapattoni & Given have come out and blasted FIFA for pulling this out of the hat at the last Minute ! but who is listening ? No one !

    There has not been one comment from the bigger nation such as Germany / Russia nor France & Portugal who stand to benifit from this seeding as it has been done to give then a better chance of making the finals.

    If the world ranking refelect these teams such as Germany France Italy Protugal etc as been comfortable the top ten teams in the World, how come they are struggling to make topping there respective groups in the first place ? this to me shows that FIFA and Seep Blatter need to seriously sit down and revaluate not because of size or football History a particular country has ! but rank it fairly regarding Win's losses and Draws and certainly not because Christian Ronaldo fifa's player might miss his chance to paly in the World cup Finals.

    What stricks me is that FAI's very own John Delaney has not come out on the attack puplicaly but rather has had a few plesant conversation with FIFA officials regarding the situation because Delaney knows he along with FAI they will get some Finincial agreement for not creating a fuss and strengthen the chances of hosting the European or Champions league final at the new Landstown road over the next few years.

    What looked like Ireland heading off to the World Cup in South Africa next year looks almost over, at least this time its not because of a few poor reults or droping stupid points to poor teams.

  4. Just Football
    October 9, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    A question for Fennell, or indeed anyone else:

    If Ireland do end up meeting Germany/France or Portugal in the playoffs, what do you think of their chances? Hopeless? Or is there a glimmer of hope that they could qualify over two legs?

  5. Geoff
    October 9, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    Personally I would fancy Ireland against the French but think they might struggle against Germany and Portugal. Portugal have struggled but you would fancy them in a one-off game. Germany would be too strong also. France, on the other hand, look very beatable.

    I would also be tempted to have a little flutter on Bosnia springing an upset. They've got some quality players who are more than capable of turning it on against the big boys (Dzeko, Misimovic, Ibisevic, Salihovic).

  6. Just-Football
    October 12, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    Ireland v France would actually be quite hard to call I think, and like you say an upset would most certainly be a possibility there for Ireland against a demoralised France side in disarray right now.

    I like Bosnia a lot too Geoff. They've got the sort of talented yet not well-known players you want to see tested on a world stage, and have done really well so far. I hope they make it to South Africa, but against Russia or Portugal I'd fear for them.