QATAR BEING ‘awarded’ the 2022 FIFA World Cup was the death knell for football*. Football to be played in 44 degree heat (111 F) – absurd – and the fact anyone on the selection committee would vote for it as a suitable place for the worlds biggest football event: disturbing. Not to mention the stadium and infrastructure workers being exploited in slave conditions.
And betting. Each league has it’s own peculiarities and sadly betting companies have been allowed direct access to the English Premier League with 17 of 20 teams in 2019 sponsored by betting operators. Given football has a huge impact and large support base of naïve youngsters it’s really a tragic confluence of greed and lack of any morality.
Then VAR. Just when it seemed FIFA and UEFA couldn’t get more corrupt or ruin the game more they introduced the Video Assistant Referee. Given tennis has had HawkEye for decades and rugby has had TMO, the game of football was crying out for some help with difficult decisions such as if the ball crossed the goal line, penalties, offsides, and any incident too quick for one ref and their assistants to catch.
Instead of making the game fairer, VAR has corrupted it further. You think I’m kidding? When you see a referee go and watch a slow motion replay multiple times and they still make the wrong decision, that’s not just incompetence, it’s to try and change reality and make the alternative acceptable/seem real. That’s a very significant and ominous sign of gas lighting. I’ve seen countless incidents where the referee has made absurd choices – with the benefit of slow motion replay from multiple angles.
Not only that! FIFA has decided that any incident in the box is a penalty now. Statistically, there has never been so many penalties being awarded and scored. It’s not some anomaly before regressing to the norm, this is outright insanity and a manipulation of the rule change which seemingly means that if the ball touches a defending players hand at all, anywhere, it’s a penalty.
I’ve seen a player cross the ball; a player head the ball at goal and the defender with their back to them (as in cannot possibly see) has had the misfortune of having arms. Despite not even looking at the ball or having an arm raised or in an unnatural position at all, a penalty was given because the ball hit the defenders arm. This happened in a split second as in nobody on this earth could reasonably be expected to have their arms anywhere else and react in any other way. It’s robbing games of any significance with score lines exaggerated.
Footballers diving in the box and feigning contact was an issue. This still happens! But now you have the added absurdity of any contact of ball against hand, no matter where the player is or what the action of play is: it means it’s a potential/probable penalty. The soul of the game has almost been completely destroyed at this stage. Add in the Covid-19 and lack of fans attending matches and football has never been in a worse position. That’s not to mention the inevitable collapse of many football clubs by the end of this season. Or Sepp Blatter’s hideous legacy. Juventus getting demoted multiple divisions for match fixing. Bungs. Financial ‘irregularities’. Crooked agents. Tapping up. Billionaire takeovers.
But then you have moments where Marcus Rashford, a Manchester United player, was fighting the government to allow children to have free school meals (so yes, to emphasise: a government who voted against allowing children access to food). And eventually winning. Or the emergence of Erling Haaland as a world class striker; Jurgen Klopp being a fantastic human being; Roy Keane’s honesty. Plus the respect paid to Maradona when he passed, from fans to celebrities. But none of that is engineered or capable of being packaged and sold or mass produced in any way. It’s human actions. Organic processes.
But those are not frequent. Football feels dirty now; tainted, suspect, questions circling with few answers. Send in the cleaners.
*For North American readers: substitute football for soccer