May 25, 2013
Leaving things late
The other day, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asked Lance Armstrong to return his Olympic medal. But was it not rather late to ask a cyclist who, it was known, had been taking prohibited drugs for some time, in a sport which had been drug-tainted for years? Hasn’t the IOC failed badly with its anti-drug programme for a long time? An IOC official now talks of expelling the sport from the Games for the next one or two Olympics to give it time to clean itself up. But the International Cycling Union has had enough time to clean itself up for years and it now seems they do not want to.
Armstrong says you cannot win seven Tour de France races, like he did, without taking drugs and in a dirty sport, in which there are many drug-takers, he is right. More than one competitor must have taken drugs also to try and win an Olympic medal. In his official confession, Armstrong did not implicate anybody else, but the US anti-doping agency now wants to put him on trial to implicate others under oath. It’s an ongoing story.
From cycling to soccer and FIFA, the sport’s international body, which held a two-day congress in Rome on “arranged and fixed match results.” One doubts if anything tangible came out of this congress. The sport has, of course, been making efforts to stop illegal betting on fixed results for a long time as this will ruin it in the long run, but has lacked success. FIFA’s Security Director, Ralf Mutschke admits that under present circumstances his organization is not going to eradicate match-fixing or corruption. There is no way, he said, that FIFA can tackle organized crime which has targeted betting on soccer as a profitable scam with little risk of being caught and prosecuted. What would be needed is collaboration, with stricter laws and more thorough investigations in the countries involved, but this has not been forthcoming.
FIFA’s general secretary Jerome Valcke is confident that World Cup matches are immune from match-fixing, although several have been under investigation. There have, of course, been results fixed between rivals when it suited them both and one blatant case was Argentina’s 6-0 win against Peru in the 1978 World Cup. But this was not the result of betting. Illegal betting has nontheless become more widespread and FIFA did leave it a bit late to realize its seriousness.
It took CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, two months to come out with their official verdict on last year’s South American Cup final between hosts São Paulo FC and Tigre, but it was just as stupid as the original version which gave the Brazilian club the trophy after an unfinished match. It will be remembered that Tigre players were beaten up and injured at half-time by São Paulo security agents and did not come out to play the second half. The whole affair seemed unnecessary, because São Paulo were well on top and already leading 2-0 at half-time.
The final details have still not been published, but now CONMEBOL says both clubs will be fined — in the case of Tigre they talk of US$5,000 for “refusing to come out to play the second half,” while the Brazilian club’s stadium will be closed (for cup games) as a punishment “for not guaranteeing the security of spectators.” How can they make such a mistake? Surely, it must have been for not guaranteeing the security of players! This column mentioned at the time that with their stupidity, they have given clubs a new tactic — beat up opposing players at half-time, so that they cannot come out to play the second half.
Finally, there is the Argentine Football Association (AFA) which is supposed to rule Argentine soccer. But in all these years, they have not realized that control has been seeping from them into the hands of criminal hooligan gangs. The AFA did say at one time that it is up to the government to control and prosecute these gangs, but it seems the government — far too busy in trying to divest the Clarín media group, the Argentine Rural Society and the Malvinas inhabitants — has not really done anything either.
The latest episode came last Sunday in Rosario where the Newell’s Old Boys versus Rosario Central derby — which should never have been organized — could not be played because of hooligan fighting beforehand. A hooligan was reported to have said earlier that they did not want the match to be played and it was not played. Now the AFA had better consult with the hooligan gangs before finalizing the fixtures for the final championship.
With the AFA however it is not a case of realizing too late that something must be done about hooligans. The fact is that they never started to do anything about it!
NEW TICKET SYSTEM. A month ago, AFA chief Julio Grondona announced that the new ticket system — with tickets only to be bought with a special card (like a creditcard) in ATM machines — would be in force for the next championship which is due to begin on February 8. Of course, he had announced the imminent start of the system several times since it was first announced in 2007. Was anyone going to believe him this time?
The January AFA Revista magazine mentions that only six clubs — Boca Juniors, Independiente, Tigre, Vélez Sársfield, Argentinos Juniors and All Boys — have completed the installation of special turnstiles to enter the stadium using this new system. The magazine also announces that “during the first few months of this year an announcement will be made when the system will (finally) start.”
With cards being obtained only at clubs and other offices (yet to be named), the system could keep hooligans out of stadiums, but whether it will or not, or a way around will be found, has to be seen. Grondona, who in his over 30 years at the head of the AFA has never done anything against them, did not mention this important aspect of the new system.