International Friendly Matches do not deserve their designation anymore. While these matches, which are normally meant to test players, new line ups and new systems, are more and more characterized by a behaviour being quite common for a football match that implies a certain amount of unfair actions. The players have in many cases lost the awareness of what these matches were about in the last years.
Less words, more acting
|Schürrle (l.), a split second after the ellbow conduct by Debuchy (r.)|
Yesterday, the responsibles and fans of the German clubs FC Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen and especially those of ManUnited were certainly trembling when Chris Smalling and Klaas Jan Huntelaar clashed with their heads. Nobody was at fault in this situation and finally, we at least could watch a very nicely scored goal by the Dutch striker. In Bremen, however, when Germany were beaten - even if five German regulars were unable to play - by good Frenchs, Andre Schürrle had to be substituted in the first half after a violent conduct of Debuchy. Latter had deliberately hit Schürrle with his ellbow. Diagnosis? Nasal bone fracture! Unable to play for months! He will miss the most important part of the season with matches against Bayern, Gladbach and Schalke. It is terrible enough that the French player committed this sort of foul, but what is even more shocking is that - again - the words are not converted into acting. The referee and assistant referee 1 from Italy - Paolo Tagliavento and Lorenzo Manganelli - both did not see any reason for a whistle. If there is no change in the future, if there are no consistently issued red cards for this, this kind of nuisance will never stop. In Bundesliga, there have been more than 15 players (!) who suffered from nasal bone fractures or the like during the past 23 matchdays. Referees have to recognize their responsibility to protect the players. It is nice that the instructions always lay much emphasis on it, as Collina did before the season, but words alone are certainly not enough.
It equates stultification in deepest perfection to appoint test matches in the middle of a season when internationally, but also nationally acting football clubs must be able to inset their best players which are - by the way - not paid by FIFA. The European Club Association (ECA) has initiated steps against these senseless test matches.
Match fixing, a new kind of sports?
It has to be stressed that the following is mostly based on suspicions. There have been plenty of remarkable odds - to formulate it kindly - in international friendly matches - no, I will now refuse to utilize this expressions, "test matches" is more suitable. It started with Ibrahim Chaibou, an old referee from Niger who had been an international referee for quite a long time. He was in charge of the test match between Nigeria and Argentina. FIFA said that it had noticed a surge in betting across Asia predicting a fifth goal after the Super Eagles had gone up 4-0 early in the second half. Chaibou awarded the Albiceleste a questionable penalty when television replays showed that the ball had only struck Efe Ambrose’s thigh eight minutes into a scheduled five minutes of added time. For some reason, the investigation did not find a result.
Then there was a case in Turkey when Bulgarian referees seemed to have manipulated two friendly matches.
And yesterday, there were again striking examples of that which are actually too clear to be true. The day started with the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers in the AFC zone. Most of the groups were already decided, but in two groups, everything was still possible: in Group D and in Group E. In the last group, Bahrain needed a 9-0 win and had to hope that Qatar would lose in Iran - what was actually very probable - to go through into the next round. With the aid of a large number of odd decisions made by Lebanon's official Andre El Haddad, Bahrain managed to win over Indonesia by 10-0. Indonesia's goalkeeper was sent off in the 4th minute for being the last man, replays however do not allow a clear judgement; four penalty kicks were awarded to Bahrain, they were not less doubtful. Thank Godness, Qatar managed to get a deserved point in Tehran so that we have not to be sorry for this team. FIFA has by the way started investigations, but there are other matches, some even in 2010 prior to the FIFA World Cup. Several matches of the host nations South Africa are under suspicion, those against Colombia, Thailand Bulgaria and Guatemala. And then, there were strange rumours about 2012's friendly Romania - Uruguay, but we have to wait to say more.
In fact, it is quite amazing that one of the most corrupt mobs of the world has to investigate in the area of match fixing and corruption. Paradoxical..