UPDATE: Ireland plead for World Cup slot as the 33rd team
Sepp Blatter revealed this morning that Ireland have appealed to FIFA to be allowed to compete as a 33rd team in next year’s World Cup.
“I will bring it to the attention of the Executive Committee,” Blatter told (stunned) journos. “I cannot confirm what will happen, but I will report it.”
I cannot confirm what will happen either, but I have a pretty good idea. In any case, aren’t the referees the 33rd team? Or if not, what about our idea here at Reuters Soccer Blog to put together a squad of players whose teams failed to make it.
We’d give Shay Given and Robbie Keane places…
Here’s Mike Collett’s view having heard Blatter speak in Johannesburg:
FIFA president Sepp Blatter greeted a delegation of very disgruntled Irishmen on Friday. FA of Ireland officials went to Zurich to have a little chat about the upcoming World Cup finals they will not be taking part in.
As the whole of the soccer world knows, Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in the build-up to France’s goal meant the French drew 1-1 with Ireland on the night and sealed a 2-1 aggregate playoff victory earlier this month. France in. Ireland out. Fair Play kicked into touch.
The Irish delegation came up with the intriguing notion of being admitted to the finals in South Africa as the 33rd team — and even more intriguingly, Blatter will put the idea forward to the FIFA Executive Committee when they meet in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The Irish, and everyone else, know full well that their audacious suggestion has no real hope of being accepted. For a start extra matches would have to be organised, one group would consist of five teams not four — but more importantly it would set a precedent that would leave the world of soccer in some considerable confusion.
But the Irish delegation also discussed some other issues with FIFA — including additional officials to help the referee, use of video technology for matches at the highest level and stronger punishments for cheats among them.
Not much good came out of Henry’s handball for the Irish — but something good might have come out of it for the game at large.
If FIFA does sanction extra officials for the World Cup to help the referee make the right call, if players think twice about their behaviour in the penalty area, the game can only benefit.
A UEFA experiment with additional officials has been conducted in the Europa League this season — if Henry’s handball and the efforts of the Irish delegation can persuade FIFA to now introduce the idea on a permanent basis, then the type of defeat Ireland suffered may become far rarer in the future.
That would be one small step for soccer, even though, unfortunately for the Irish, there will surely still only be 32 teams in South Arica next year.
PHOTO: FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrives at a news conference in Mexico City November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar