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(L-R) AIPS President Gianni Merlo, Secretary General Roslyn Morris and FIFA President Sepp Blatter at FIFA's South African headquarters near Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg. Photo/Daniela Leeb, FIFA

FIFA to establish Refereeing d’ Etat généraux

By Gianni Merlo, AIPS President

JOHANNESBURG, July 2, 2010 -  The taxi driver taking us to the FIFA headquarters in Mandela Square is convinced, “I’d like there to be a World Cup every year. It’s changing our lives. If there was always this safety, we could take everything in a different way. But do you think they’ll give us the Olympics in 2020 now? Have we earned it? Does Africa deserve it or have the right?”

The World Cup has triggered an incredible appetite in South African people, a craving to be a throbbing part of the world. In the stadiums, every match is a party and it’s a pleasure to be knocked over by the wave of high spirits. On the eve of the World Cup, it was feared that the stadiums might be empty and the result a fiasco. However, everything is fine. Every now and again there has been a hiccup in the organisation but it’s human, normal. The transport can become scarce but, compared to the negative forecasts just before it started, the reality is positive. We’re moving into the decisive week and, at the end, we don’t want to hear, “It’s been the best World Cup ever,” a truly stale formula, but we’d love to hear, “It’s been the most human, useful World Cup for a nation that’s building its identity.”

The FIFA headquarters are rather spartan. Sepp Blatter, the president, is tortured by a doubt, “I don’t want people around the world to think that this Cup is low level because of the refereeing errors, which have spoiled the satisfaction for the success the event is receiving.”

Blatter is thinking about a second revolution in the refereeing world: “After the 1990 Cup, we changed because we’d realised that the refereeing triad consisting of just referees, also in the role of assistants, wasn’t working, as they found it very hard to put up with being relegated to the sidelines and this created imbalances.

“Twenty years on we have to face a new change. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have expected mistakes from such good referees but, in the autumn, we’ll call the dEtat généraux of FIFA in Zurich concentrating on refereeing. In this way, we’ll consider all the possible solutions together. Technology?  It’s an idea but even that’s not infallible. A chip in the football would be too complicated, difficult to create. The TV camera may become blind when the goalkeeper and a player hide the true position of the ball with their bodies - this can happen in a melange. However, I will always point out that football must stay human, even in the mistakes, and not become an electronic game. Technology should be used carefully.”

And the solution of two extra referees behind the goals?

“Six referees, and why not ten? We’ll talk about it in the autumn. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this World Cup which is bringing a new message to Africa. I know, here they’re now dreaming of the Olympics. Even Rogge, the IOC president, has had a positive impression of this country. I’m happy to have given them an opportunity and now they deserve our applause.”

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