The Gnomes Of Zurich Are At It Again

I can actually understand why FIFA might be a bit touchy about emblems on shirts.

They’ve got it wrong before.

For example, in the 1934 FIFA World Cup tournament the Italian team (who won both that competition and went on to win in France in 1938) wore the Fascist symbol on their shirts: it’s clearly visible on the official tournament poster and TOFFS are still making and selling that particular shirt. Quite what FIFA thought about the Italian side giving the Fascist salute throughout the tournament isn’t clear, although this newsreel clip shows that players that featured in the infamous ‘Battle Of Highbury’ six months later weren’t shy about giving the glad hand during a wreath laying ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Here’s a picture of future manager of West Germany Helmut Schoen playing for the famous ‘Breslau Elf’ before the war. Have a close look at the badge. Presumably FIFA didn’t think that was ‘political’ either.

After World War II, I don’t recall FIFA being too bothered about the communist countries who wore the red star on their shirts even though that’s an overtly political symbol. Similarly, political considerations seem to have been absent from the 1978 FIFA World Cup: a tournament that was cynically exploited for propaganda purposes by the brutal military junta in Argentina.

In the past couple of decades the political geography of Europe has changed a lot: for example, despite not being a monarchy since the Romanov dynasty was overthrown in the November revolution almost a century ago, the double headed eagle that was a symbol of that regime has now reappeared on the Russian football shirt.

Additionally, if national team shirts are not supposed to have any political, religious or commercial messages, then surely that also applies to the kit manufacturer logos.

But ultimately, FIFA couldn’t give a **** about anything other than FIFA.

That’s also worth remembering this weekend. We’ll be back before the end of the week with a look at the Euro 2012 playoffs and England’s friendly with Spain.

FIFA Extraordinary General Meeting: Don’t Hold Your Breath.

The announcement today that Sepp Blatter has called an extraordinary general meeting of FIFA in Cape Town two days before the draw for the finals seems to be a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The rather terse statement on runs as follows:

‘Due to recent events in the world of football, namely incidents at the play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africaâ„¢, match control (refereeing) and irregularities in the football betting market, the FIFA President has called an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee.’

OK, let’s go through this point by point. Presumably the ‘incidents’ include the stoning of the Algerian bus in Cairo before their playoff with Egypt, ‘match control’ must refer to Thierry Henry’s ‘goal’ versus Ireland and the ‘irregularities in the football betting market’ refers to the wave of arrests that have taken place in continental Europe over the past week or so. The first one is a World Cup issue and a World Cup connection is implied within the second issue so we’ll deal with them here: we’ll probably only discuss the third if it somehow becomes relevent to next summer.

The date of the meeting automatically rules out the prospect of some kind of Ireland v France rematch, but – as has been suggested elsewhere – it may mean that the experiment with two extra officials patrolling the goal lines that is taking part in the Europa League this season may be permanent next summer. If – and it’s a big if – the extra official had seen Henry’s handball, then the goal might not have been allowed; it remains to be seen if video technology might be considered, but when one of the corporate ‘partners’ is one of the world’s largest electronic manufacturers…well you get the picture. In HD where possible.

The bus stoning incident in Cairo was a pretty nasty one and both sides have blamed each other for it, but it was not the only problem during the qualifiers and certainly isn’t the first time that there’s been crowd trouble in Africa during qualifying competitions. Closer to home,  the Serbian FA were fined £26,700 (approximately $45,000 or 29,500 or so Euros) for trouble caused by their fans during their qualifiers and elements of our lunatic fringe will try their best to cause problems next summer. Apparently ‘street’ drinking is illegal in South Africa even though it is felt that the local police will ignore it for the duration of the finals; a horde of rampaging hooligans (or what might appear to be rampaging hooligans) in the middle of a country with an undeniably serious crime problem could be potentially catastrophic.

I really don’t want to come across as the voice of doom and I’d really like to think that the FIFA meeting might result in something positive, but quite what they’re going to do about an international superstar breaking Law 12 and getting away with it or how they expect to stop hooliganism by raising fines against national football associations is beyond me. Let’s see what they come up with…but don’t hold your breath.