Bizarre Love Triangle: The Politics of International Football

I had initially anticipated that my next 3 articles, which are in the pipeline, would concern something completely different to the slightly dubious nature that this one takes on. However, by complete co-incidence an issue has come to my attention that I felt must be written about, if only to gauge the thoughts of the football audience more than anything.

In the day of yellow cards being issued in the name of the goal celebration, is it a case of the killjoys again, or is it all perfectly acceptable? No doubt you’re all aware of the recent result in Israel which has left England requiring only a draw on Wednesday night against Croatia. It was a result that contradicted the conspiracy theorists within the English media, who had referred to the fact that Guus Hiddink’s father had helped the Jews with their escape during the Second World War. It seems England loves Israel, who love Hiddink, whose employers love the Balkan country. Here goes…

I was back in Manchester over the weekend just gone for a christening, followed up in the function room at Bury Football Club. The proceeding day, I picked up a copy of the Manchester Evening News en route to the airport. The main story on the back page detailed how the Israeli winning goalscorer and self-confessed Manchester United fan, Omer Golan, had been offered a £50,000 car from the English bookie, Fred Done, as a thank you for his part in Russia’s downfall on Saturday Evening. The Israeli FA didn’t take too kindly to the donation, a response that naturally left Golan, who earns £80,000 per year plying his trade for Maccabi Haifa, crestfallen. Done feels the question of ethics doesn’t come into the equation, stating that the story was all over the Israeli media in the week leading up to the crucial match and therefore everybody was aware of it. It also followed recent allegations that Roman Abramovich had offered the Russians $40,000 per man to beat Israel.

Of course, with Russia playing Andorra in their last fixture it seems a no-brainer, meaning it all boils down to events at Wembley. Consider the following news from the UK Yahoo Sports website. It came at the tail-end of an article relating to Alexander Kerzhakov’s dismay at not coming off the bench in Israel:

Meanwhile, Russian billionaire Leonid Fedun – who owns Spartak Moscow – has offered to donate four luxury cars to the Croatia goalkeeper and best three outfield players if they can beat England. “I’m doing this strictly as a fan,” Fedun told The Sun. “If we have even have a small chance we must use it.”

It’s worth remembering that the Russians hit the post moments before the winner, and much of this is still hypothetical, with the game not yet played, but Croatia certainly possess talent in the likes of Eduardo Da Silva, Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka to trouble England as they did last time round. The Russian FA’s stance is surely vital in terms of consistency here. If they wish to adhere to the ethics of the beautiful game as the Israelis have, presumably they will step in to veto Fedun’s offer. That said, the English FA hasn’t, to my knowledge, prohibited Done’s offer to Golan.

Hence, is this really a question of acting unethically? Is it really so bad if a player earning a fraction of the wages compared to Kerzhakov, for example, picks up a car for doing well? The juxtaposition of these offers, and the implications of the Israel win, probably means that depends of your nationality. Personally, the England fan within me is of the viewpoint that there is nothing wrong with Golan receiving the car, I know I would look for an excuse — aside for England not having been good enough over 12 games — and if I were to see a picture of Fedun, smiling with the three Croats, I wouldn’t be happy.

More logically, though, if none of these offers had taken place, I would have to simply say that England were not good enough, as much as it would hurt, and credit to Russia and Croatia. Do you have a view on this?

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  1. SpiralArchitect 21 November, 2007
  2. iqnadirshah 21 November, 2007
  3. mintox 21 November, 2007
  4. Ahmed Bilal 21 November, 2007
  5. Brian 21 November, 2007
  6. Sagar 21 November, 2007
  7. Anthony 21 November, 2007
  8. Anthony 21 November, 2007
  9. Primachenko 21 November, 2007