We Hate Argentina

One of my more vivid memories of our time in the UK is watching England v Denmark in the first knock-out round of the 2002 World Cup at our local pub.

The game was played in the middle of the day on a Saturday, UK time, and England went on to win 3-nil.  But, that’s not what I remember.

By the time we arrived shortly before kick-off there was already small but vocal group of keen fans who had been drinking all morning.  They were getting ready for the match by singing a song which had the simple lyrics: “We hate Argentina! We hate Argentina!”  This was all the more curious because England had already knocked Argentina out in the group stages, so this time around they weren’t going to be able to blame Argentina for their eventual exit.

Why do English fans hate Argentina?  It’s complicated, but part of the reason is that Argentina has a history of cheating and getting away with it, whereas England does not.

Cheating and getting away with it isn’t sport, yet the “art” of diving, faking injury, pushing and shoving and pulling shirts to impede opponents, handling the ball and intimidating the referee have somehow become an integral part of football.

At some stage soon FIFA [1] are going to need to decide whether to introduce technology and/or new rules into the mix for future World Cups, to assist the referees and ensure a fair result.  There are lots of options, including the status quo of leaving it all to some poor bugger to decide in real time.

I think they could do a lot worse than consider these three changes, based on some ideas proposed by my brother:

Challenges. Each team would be given one challenge per half, which they could use to challenge any decision made by the referee – e.g. if they think the referee has missed a foul, or incorrectly awarded a free kick or penalty.  They would be reviewed by a television official.  If the challenge is successful then the decision is reversed and they maintain the challenge.  If not, they lose the ability to challenge for the remainder of the half.  Because they only have one challenge they will need to be careful to use it only when they are convinced the decision was wrong.

Red Cards for Simulation. If a player is caught diving or over-acting where there is a foul then they are sent off.  Given the ability to challenge (see above) it will no longer pay to try and play the referee and could be very expensive, so this should significantly reduce this behaviour.

Penalty Goals. If a goal would have been scored but for a foul then a goal can be awarded, rather than just a penalty.  (If this rule was in place then Uruguay would have lost the match to Ghana at the 2010 World Cup).

What do you think?

[1] Some trivia: it’s not actually FIFA who will decide on these changes.  The laws are maintained by a body called the International Football Association Board which is composed of four representatives from FIFA and one each from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Any changes need to be approved by 6 out of the 8 members.  So, all that whining from England about TV replays, but they really have nobody to blame but themselves!