Date: 21st November 2009 at 1:10am
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Football`s latest controversy was on show in Paris last week, when the 2nd leg of the World Cup qualifier was settled in extra-time with the help of Thierry Henry`s left arm.
France`s winning goal came when their experienced striker blatantly controlled the ball with his forearm before clipping a short cross into the six-yard box for William Gallas to head home.

It was enough to deflate a plucky Ireland team, whose players vainly appealed for a free-kick against Henry. Supporters (and even politicians) vented their anger and frustration that Ireland had been robbed by such a blatant refereeing error in a high-profile match. Henry himself admitted afterwards that he had used his hand instinctively to control the ball – and that he had told the referee and Ireland players as much after the game. Indeed FIFA admitted the mistake, but said there was no grounds to replay the game.

Cynics will see this as more than just an innocent mistake where the referee and linesman were unsighted. Was this one of these incidents where referees appear to look for reasons NOT to penalise a “big” home team when they are losing ? The importance of the game was huge – the winning country could expect a huge boost to their economy and national spirit in the lead-up to South Africa next year?.and there`s no denying that France is bigger in every way than Ireland.

For those of us who follow teams outside of the Old Firm, this type of scenario is not new in our experience of football in Scotland. After all, how many times have we seen Celtic and Rangers enjoy the “rub of the green” (ahem?) when they needed it most, to overcome a plucky Scottish underdog ? I can recall a similarly blatant incident involving Barry Ferguson 2 years ago against Hearts, which resulted in a goal despite his hand having controlled the ball.

What is amazing after the French incident though, is the comments I heard from several fans of Celtic and Rangers at my work. All of them expressed huge sympathy for Ireland as the victims of an outrageous sporting injustice. Indeed some reckoned the game should be replayed, and a couple even suggested it was a conspiracy by FIFA. One even confessed to me that he was becoming disillusioned with football altogether due to cheating in its various guises..

Wow !! Although most of my OF chums declined to admit any double standards in their judgement, it did strike me that the various negative trends in modern football are indeed having an effect on a wide range of supporters.

The latest revelations that police have made 17 arrests throughout Europe of people suspected of taking part in organised match-fixing only adds fuel to the “fire” that`s starting to engulf the beautiful game. UEFA are said to be “stunned” at the scale of this betting scandal, which is said to cover Champions League, Europa League and domestic matches in several countries.

Against such a backdrop, you`ve got to feel a bit sorry for Christian Nade. At half-time on Saturday, the rare event of seeing his name on the scoresheet had Hearts in the lead – perhaps the odd cynic was even tempted to think that some kind of “match-fixing” was taking place !!


5 Replies to “‘Big team bias’ angers OF fans !!”

  • Football tournaments are ruined these days by incompetent, blind, or corrupt referees. You only have to look back to the last World Cup and the match between South Korea and Spain, where Spain were basically beaten by the referee. Given this latest high-profile ‘gaff’, it’s hard to imagine what enjoyment could be had from this forthcoming World Cup when Scotland aren’t there and some of the wrong teams are too. I don’t want to watch football where the outcome is determined by the referee. And that makes me quite sad.

  • Mistakes have been made by refs for as long as the game’s been around, but they are much higher profile now because of TV coverage. Not sure how good a view the ref had of this particular incident, but Henry hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory either has he? As for the reference to the OF fans SH, are you really surprised by their reaction?!

  • Well, watching Hearts these days would be ideal for you SJ, since the ref plays absolutely NO part in determining the outcome – our ineptitude sees to that !!

  • Mr H – my genuine surprise was that they didn’t see the irony in condemning the way big teams get favours !! I think its becasue each side of the OF believes the other gets all the favours, so the rest of us have no grounds in accusing them of being the recipients of “big team bias”. Quite astonishing….

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