Socceroos penalised by FIFA's payback policy
(via email)THE Aussies should have known it would end this way. It was inevitable. The seed for Australia's 1-0 World Cup loss to Italy in Kaiserslautern on a blatantly incorrect penalty kick awarded by Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo in the final seconds was sown in South Korea four years ago.
Monday's devastating blow to the Socceroos was a make-up call.
Anyone with any suspicion of just how things are manipulated at soccer's highest level, including the outcome of games, needs only to look back to 2002. That's when Italy was robbed blind in a 2-1 overtime loss to South Korea in a second-round World Cup game that was refereed atrociously by Ecuador's Byron Moreno. The South American was so bad that Italians named a row of public toilets after him in Sicily.
The loss eliminated the Italians and — much to the delight of soccer's movers and shakers — sent co-host South Korea on a run that took it to the semi-finals and an eventual fourth-place finish.
Given the massive public support for the team, keeping South Korea alive as long as possible was very much in FIFA's interests. So Italy paid the price. This time around, the price has been paid back.
Things are all square with Italy. Australia will get the make-up call next time around, at South Africa in 2010, assuming it qualifies.
That's how it works.
It's about making hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships and television contracts. Fat cats greasing fat cats. It's not really about sport or sportsmanship. Only the naive believe that.
Think this is the rambling of a conspiracy theorist? Think again. Listen tothe Italians in 2002:
This from Francesco Totti, who was ejected in the game against South Korea: "It was a scandal. The truth is that he (Moreno) had his mind set against us — this was a desired elimination. By who? I don't know — there are things greater than me, but the feeling is that they wanted us out."
Or this, from Franco Frattini, then a minister in the Italian Government: "The referee was a disgrace. Absolutely scandalous. I've never seen a game like it. It seemed as if they just sat around a table and decided to throw us out."
And finally this, from then-Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni: "I said that it would be tough, that we had additional opposition. I am not talking about a plot but about an additional opposition."
Flash forward now to Monday afternoon in Kaiserslautern. No contact is made when Australian defender Lucas Neill slides to make a blocking tackle on Fabio Grosso. If anything, Grosso has taken a dive. But referee Cantalejo points immediately to the penalty spot. There is only time left for the kick. No time for Australia to reply.
And who steps up to take it? None other than the formerly affronted Totti, the victim of 2002's "scandal".
Totti scores, and Italy goes through to the quarter-finals. Australia's first World Cup finals in 32 years are over.
Australia's coach had this to say: "If you see the replay, there is no doubt that it was not a penalty."
Australia's coach is Guus Hiddink. He was on the other side of the "conspiracy" in 2002. Back then, he was South Korea's coach when Italy was stiffed.
Honest. You can't make up this stuff. Only FIFA has that talent.