JOHANNESBURG, July 13, 2010 - FIFA president Sepp Blatter did his diplomatic best to skirt around questions about refereeing and Holland’s horror show in Sunday’s World Cup Final which Andres Iniesta rescued for Spain and for football with his late, late extra-time goal.
Blatter was asked repeatedly, in a variety of ways, about the refereeing of English policeman Howard Webb had come in for bitter criticism from the Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk and his players.
In total Webb distributed 14 cards which was the highest haul in the World Cup finals since the 20-card record from the second round in 2006 between Portugal and the same –or at least similarly-inclined – Dutchmen. The furthest Blatter would go initially was to say: “It was a very hard task that the refereeing trip had. It was not easy – really, not easy and they were not helped . . .” He left his sentence hanging in midair but listeners might have read an unspoken “by the attitude of the Dutch players.”
Later he added, tellingly: “Football is a sort of school for life which is based on discipline and respect. It is also a combat game but a combat game in the spirit of fair play. We tell our young players that to learn to win is easy but in football you also learn how to lose and when that happens you should not forget discipline and respect.”
Blatter was chairing the official “Wrap-up Press Conference” alongside FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, local organizing chairman Irvin Khoza, chief executive Danny Jordaan and African confederation president Issa Hayatou.
He complimented to all the organizing personnel within both the world federation and South Africa organizing set-up and wound up with a tribute to Nelson Mandela “who I met first in 1992, one year after he had come out of jail, and who had the dream to bring the World Cup here to South Africa and to the African continent.”
Blatter also repeated answers from earlier press conferences about the reopening of inquiries into goal-line technology, about the value – using Spain’s Barcelona as evidence – of relying on home-bred talent and about no decision this year on the continental allocations of the 31 slots for the 2014 finals.
Valcke, FIFA’s hard-working organizing ‘enforcer’, praised the South African police for delivering tournament security to gainsay all the fearful predictions of the foreign media. Now Valcke goes back to square one, imposing FIFA’s will on the Brazilians who must host the game in 2014.
He said: “It’s the same. We must build infrastructure, stadia, airports, accreditation systems . . . just business as usual.”