Diego Maradona was sent home from 1994 FIFA World Cup after he tested positive for drugs.(AFP)
Diego Maradona was sent home from 1994 FIFA World Cup after he tested positive for drugs.(AFP)

FIFA World Cup: When ‘foul play’ marred biggest stage

From doping to contrived games, the FIFA World Cup has witnessed incidents that have tarnished football’s reputation.
By Sayan Ghosh | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2018 12:38 PM IST

There are a few things that are constant when it comes to the FIFA World Cup — extravagance, top class football and a healthy dose of controversies. From political tensions to on-field clashes, not a single edition of the tournament has been free of some dispute or other and this year’s competition is proving to be no different. With less than a month to go, the organisers are already in the news following allegations of racism and corruption against them. And with the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) making its debut, there seems to be no shortage of drama in the build-up to the tournament.

The only place where FIFA has succeeded in ending controversies is with the timing of the group stage games. It is a common practice nowadays for all final fixtures in the World Cup group stage to be played simultaneously and that is because of what happened to Algeria in 1982.

READ | 2018 FIFA World Cup: Disgruntled Brazil fans break into training, boo team

Due to the different timings of the games, West Germany and Austria knew a 1-0 win for the former will be enough for both teams to advance. That was exactly the result the two teams produced to knock out Algeria.

COMMON CAUSE

However, when it comes to controversies, referees are the biggest targets, with the tournament witnessing some truly horrible decisions.

A few days ago, news broke that a World Cup referee has been banned for life for a match-fixing attempt in Saudi Arabia, weeks before he was due to fly to Russia.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) said that Fahad Al Mirdasi confessed to offering to fix the King’s Cup final.

The controversy could not have taken place at a worse time as the World Cup has no shortage of controversies involving suspicious decisions from on-field referees.

READ | 2018 FIFA World Cup: Blacklisted fan bypasses Russia’s security system

Back in 1982, hosts Spain were awarded a penalty for a foul that took place clearly two yards outside the area. Although their opponents — Yugoslavia — accused the referee of favouring their opponents, nothing was ever proven.

In 2002, Byron Moreno of Ecuador and Egypt’s Gamal Al-Ghandour found themselves in the eye of storm as they were accused of helping hosts South Korea.

Shortly after the tournament, both referees were forced to retire due to match-fixing allegations and it was even reported that Al-Ghandour received a brand new car from South Korea.

This edition of the tournament will be a bit different from the past editions thanks to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology at the referee’s disposal.

Imagine if there were multiple camera angles to decide whether the ball crossed the line in the 1966 World Cup final when England beat West Germany, or Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ incident in 1986 against England.

VAR is not foolproof yet, but had it existed then, a lot of endless debates could have been avoided.

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