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Colombian petition for England replay a hilarious case of pot-kettle-black

Thursday 5th July 2018

I have a Russian friend who lives in Fort Lauderdale. Like most Russians I’ve met, he’s interested in politics, science, technology and football. And like most Russians, he tends to be a fatalist when it comes to the first and last items on that list.

Last night, we had a long, interesting conversation about the World Cup. In part, it was interesting because I had to be extremely careful about what I said. Matches go live here during work hours and Dmitri is so into football he wants to see every game without knowing the result. He’s cut himself off from all social media and when we cross paths each day, the first thing he does is raise his hands and voice to be sure I don’t tell him something he doesn’t want to know.

Among the World Cup subplots we discussed, provided I didn’t offer detailed examples that would spoil his fun, was VAR. Dmitri's fatalism was evident in his opinion of the process.

Football is the most popular sport because it’s the most like life and what makes it most like life is how unfair it can be. The most successful players weren’t afraid to cross the line. Why do you think Maradona is considered the greatest? People who complain about how unfair life is never get very far.

One example he gave was the US special forces, who will intentionally be unfair to trainees to see whether they can take it.

They’ll tell one guy to do 40 pushups, turn to the next and say, ‘you do 60.’ You’d be surprised. Soldiers who can take anything, grueling physical exertion, verbal abuse, even sleep deprivation, will just walk away because the drill sergeant is treating them unfairly. But war is unfair. The better army can lose because of bad luck or because commanders make stupid decisions. If it’s going to survive, an army needs soldiers who can keep going when they receive ridiculous orders. Football is like that, especially the World Cup.

He concluded with this nugget.

I don’t understand why FIFA spends so much time trying to make the game fair when the part that interests people most is how unfair it can be.

In the course of that conversation, I had mentioned how dirty Colombia tend to play. Dmitri, who still had no idea what had happened in the England match and is not an England supporter, immediately agreed that shithousery was at the root of El Tricolor’s play.

Imagine my absolute delight when I logged on this morning to find over 200,000 people had signed a petition to replay the Colombia/England match because the officiating had been biased in the Three Lions’ favour. Even with the match over, Colombia was trying to cheat their way to victory.

Those shocked by the development, which will, of course, come to nothing, are missing the point. It isn’t that Colombia fails to see the irony in claiming they were the ones who were mistreated. It’s that they see it 20/20 and are intentionally, shamelessly turning it on its head. They’re like the criminal who blames the victim. Just audacious.

The petition cites two injustices.

First, that Mark Geiger blew the whistle, nullifying Carlos Bacca’s goal because Harry Maguire had been caught out trying to keep a second ball off the pitch. Bacca didn’t kick the ball into goal until three or four seconds after the whistle when everyone else had stopped playing.

Second, that the penalty called against Carlos Sanchez and converted by Harry Kane was not a foul. In Colombia’s collective mind, it is apparently legal to ride forwards in the box like they are coin-operated kiddy rides outside the Walmart.

Radamel Falcao felt the American referee was biased because he “speaks only English.” Britons and Americans share more than a language, of course. They did $121 billion in trade in 2016, the last year for which figures are available. Colombia and the US only did $19 billion. Geiger whistled 23 fouls against Colombia, 13 against England, but at first missed an intentional headbutt that should have been red-carded, not yellowed, and allowed a Colombia free kick to take place 20 yards further up the pitch than where the foul had been committed. If the Yank was trying to be properly biased, based on the trade numbers, he fell short of the mark. He should have hit Los Cafeterios up for more than 85% of the calls, not a mere 64.

Essentially, Colombia’s argument implies that calling it down the middle means hitting both sides for the same number of calls, regardless whether one ignores the rules far more often. Falcao knows better. So does, Jose Pekerman, who claimed Kane and other England forwards “fall in the box.”

At least they are reaffirming life’s inherent unfairness. Petitions don’t count for much there, else Donald Trump wouldn’t be President and there would be a second Brexit referendum. Why should they have any influence in football?

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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