World Cup Diary
Commercial activities undermine referee CollinaPosted: Tuesday June 25, 2002 4:21 PM
Updated: Tuesday June 25, 2002 4:34 PM
Italian Pierluigi Collina is being tipped by many to referee Sunday's Final in Yokohama after Urs Meier and Kim Milton Nielsen were named to take charge of the semifinals.
But my money would be on the Swede, Anders Frisk, especially after the way in which he handled Spain's second-round game against the Irish. It takes a brave official to award a penalty in the last minute of any game, let alone one which will could send a team into the last eight of the World Cup.
The bald-headed Collina is often named as the world's best referee, but a lot of his popularity is due to the fact that he is the only ref that people can recognize. That has had financial benefits, too, for Collina, who has featured in advertising campaigns for adidas.
But I doubt if FIFA, mindful although dismissive of the conspiracy theories currently swirling around Italy and Spain, will want to appoint a referee who is effectively on the payroll of adidas, especially if it involves Germany, home of adidas.
Frisk may not be household name, but the best referees are the ones that people never remember.
Talking of shirt manufacturers, Nike's men in Korea must be kicking themselves. The majority of the red-shirted Korean millions who have been celebrating their team's extraordinary World Cup have been wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Be the Reds!."
Nobody is quite sure who invented the slogan, but the T-shirts have been a huge hit, with more than eight million being sold so far. The official national team shirts, manufactured by Nike, not to mention the pirate copies which sell for a fraction of the price in local markets, have been conspicuous by their absence.
Nike are usually highly effective in their "guerilla marketing" at major tournaments. But they have missed an open goal this time.
The rash of bad refereeing decisions has re-ignited the whole debate about the use of electronic devices to help match officials.
But the most controversial incident -- Morientes' disallowed goal for Spain against Korea from Joaquin's cross -- would not have stood had electronic aides been in place. Referee Ghandour had spotted his linesman's flag and had blown his whistle before Morientes headed past Lee.
The linesman was at fault after flagging when the ball had not actually crossed the line. No intervention from an electronic judge on could have corrected the linesman's original mistake.
A bigger issue is how FIFA selects the officials, particularly the linesmen, many of whom have been poor.
Though we have seen some pleasing attacking football at this World Cup, I fear for the future.
The biggest talking point among the coaches and technical staff when they head home won't be ball skills or attack-minded tactics, but the importance of fitness and physical preparation.
The early departure of the much-fancied European teams can be put down, more than anything, to the physical condition of their top players. The likes of Zidane, Figo, Beckham - the players who played more games than anybody else in the last European season - wilted in the heat and humidity. Instead, it has been the teams who had time to prepare and condition their players -- South Korea, the U.S. -- who have been most successful.
Brazil's run to the semis can be put down in part to the fact that their best two players, Rivaldo and Ronaldo, have benefited from lengthy spells on the sidelines recuperating from injury.
As long as clubs continue to call the shots, the talk of reducing the number of games played during the European season will remain just talk. There is going to be more and more emphasis on physical fitness above skill.
Darwin was right all along.
The reaction in the British press to England's exit has, from those papers that I have read, been relatively measured and reflective. No calls for Seaman's head or for Sven to fall on his sword.
If there is a sense of frustration with England's performances, especially against Brazil, it stems from the realization that England blew their best chance of reaching a World Cup Final in decades.
For me, the most disappointing aspect of England's departure was the way that they surrendered so meekly to a Brazil side which, although reduced to 10 men, played calm, collected possession football.
England reverted to type, donning their headless chickens costumes and chasing long balls and Brazilian shadows, rather than using the extra man to play their way back into the game.
According to figures released by FIFA, there are 4,200 journalists and photographers accredited to cover this World Cup. The oldest is a freelancer from Portugal, who will be 83 in July. The youngest is from Bolivian, and according to FIFA was born on January 4, 1988, making him only 14.
The list of 4,200 contains only 232 women, the largest contingent, 66, being from Japan, with 40 from Korea and 22 from the U.S. Of the 155 journalists from Brazil, only three are female.
There are only five Smiths in the total list. Of the 572 Koreans, there are 36 Parks, 87 Lees and 145 Kims.