That’s it then. A month of football consigned to the pages of history. Congratulations to Spain on their first World Cup, overcoming a Netherlands team who were at times more “Brutal Football” than “Total Football”. Intriguing though is the position of the BBC World Cup team who now sees itself as the moral guardians of the game, in stating that a Netherlands victory would have been “…bad for football…” It smacks of managers who complain, “…they didn’t let us play…”. I’m sure the Dutch fans would have been overwhelmed with joy if their team had allowed Spain the time and space to play the ball around and romp to a 4-0 win. I presume the BBC has phoned round the Premier League teams and demanded that Arsenal be allowed all the time and space they require so that they can pass their way to the title, while opponents sit back and be grateful for the football lesson they are being taught. The Dutch had a game plan, which unsightly as it may have been for some, thwarted the fluency of Spain. It nearly took them to penalties and who knows a possible victory. That’s football. Simple question. What would you prefer? Your sides plays lovely and finishes mid-table or a team that is physical, functional, organised and wins the title?
So what will I take away from the first African World Cup? With the coverage so total in all forms of the media, it’s hard to escape the clichés that were things such as the sounds of the vuvuzela’s, dramatic sky-lines providing backdrops to the stadiums, questions over the ball and the failure of the “stars” to shine. My hope is that FIFA does look to address a number of issues between now and 2014 in Brazil.
- Ticketing: there were problems with the pricing and of the distribution of tickets which led to many empty seats especially in the Group games and last 16. Greater understanding of the host countries economy needs to be considered, as does the policy on who receives tickets.
- Playing surface/balls: as the pinnacle of football events, shouldn’t the playing conditions and equipment be the best they possibly can? Some surfaces required “patching” to cover bare parts of the pitch and some couldn’t be used to practice on because of the condition. In a World Cup were goalkeeping mistakes seemed more common place and players seemed to have difficulty in the control and judging the weight of passes, the ball must have been a contributory factor.
- Replay technology: the decision must be to bring this in now. The question is how and for what decisions? Just for seeing if a ball has crossed the line? Off-sides? Where players encroach during the taking of penalties?
- FIFA branding: my most irritating aspect of this World Cup? The FIFA letters which appeared after every replay in games. We know if the FIFA World Cup, I don’t need it stuffed down my throat every minute of the game. An image of the trophy itself, the competing countries crests – anything but the Big Brother image of FIFA.
- Penalty-goals: for a hand-ball on the line, consider the adaptation of a rule used in both codes of rugby, the penalty try. If the referee believes that a try has been prevented by the defending team’s misconduct, they can award a try to the attacking team. A player handling on the line where the referee considers that the ball would have gone in without this intervention should be allowed to award a penalty goal. The player would also be sent off.
- Legacy: ensure that the projects set in place during the World Cup come to fruition in the coming years. Report on their progress so that it doesn’t mean the World focus turns away as soon as the FIFA circus has left town.
My thanks to all those that have stuck with me during the World Cup. Goodbye South Africa, see you in four years in Brazil…….2018? Well we’ll know in December.