By Oliver Sheehan
The soccer World Cup has reached the last 16 stage, with teams giving everything to reach the last eight of the competition, and yet again, surprise surprise, England is not in the quarter-final lineup.
If you saw the look on the England player’s and the England manager’s faces you would think it was a complete shock they were knocked out by arch-rivals Germany. Sadly, to the rest of the nation it is all too common and not really a surprise at all.
As an Englishman, it did not come as any great surprise to lose the game. Yet again, the players let the nation down by getting hammered 4-1. England has never suffered a worse defeat at a World Cup finals.
It’s humiliating, but I do wish just for once the England players and management would take it on the chin and learn their lessons. But they won’t take anything from it other than they had a goal disallowed that would have changed the whole game. Yes the ball went over the line and yes it would have been an equalizing goal right before half time. But the way the England players played and defended as a team, Germany was always going to win the game.
Since that goal, all I have heard is whines from present and former England players and of course the manager, even prompting world soccer’s governing body FIFA to issue an apology.
What gets me is this: The U.S. scored a perfectly legitimate goal against Slovenia that would have won them the game, but it was disallowed. The U.S. scored a perfectly legitimate goal against Algeria, but it was disallowed. Has the U.S. heard anything from world football’s governing body? No. Why hasn’t the U.S. heard anything from FIFA? Because the U.S. has not thrown its toys out of the pram like England did. The U.S. players took it on the chin and accepted defeat with a bit of grace.
The behavior of the English or the U.S. is not really the issue though. The issue is that FIFA seems to think that the England team deserve an apology and the U.S. team does not. Why? Because England is the home of soccer? Because the English Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world and one of the most closely followed?
These factors should make no difference at all. FIFA appointed these referees and it was under these FIFA appointed referees’ watch that these mistakes were made. So regardless of the league or the nation or the magnitude of the decision, an apology should still be made.
My concern though is that at a time when soccer in the U.S. is growing as a sport, these mistakes are being made and the U.S. soccer authorities are not being treated with the same respect that the English soccer authorities are given.
Lack of respect, poor refereeing decisions and a refusal to implement goal-line technology from soccer’s leading authorities are not things that will promote the sport’s growth in the U.S. This country is great at producing winning sportsmen and women — Venus and Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong, Landon Donovan to name a few — and if it threw the same money and time at soccer as it does at football, basketball and baseball, the income and the growth of the sport from advertising, merchandising and sponsorship would be massive both for the U.S. and the world.
I think it is a great shame that FIFA doesn’t see it that way.
Oliver Sheehan may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? E-mail: email@example.com