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Blatter Blasts Officials for Performance

June 21, 2002|From Associated Press

Labeling linesmen at the World Cup "a disaster," the president of soccer's governing body said in an interview published Thursday that he would propose changes in the selection, training and designation of match officials for future editions of the competition.

In an interview with the Milan daily Gazzetta dello Sport, FIFA President Sepp Blatter also said certain refereeing decisions against Italy at the World Cup caused him to "suffer deeply."

"Obviously the dozens of competitions staged by FIFA over the last four years have been insufficient to 'break in' the referees and linesmen. The former have been quite good, the latter a disaster, especially on calling offsides," Blatter was quoted as saying.

Much of Italy's media, including Gazzetta dello Sport, the country's top-selling sports newspaper, have cried foul against what they said was a FIFA conspiracy against the "Azzurri" team.

Three-time champion Italy was eliminated from the competition on Tuesday in a 2-1 upset by World Cup co-host South Korea.

Two episodes during the match--playmaker Francesco Totti's being sent off for diving and an offsides call on an overtime goal by midfielder Damiano Tommasi--provoked outrage in Italy.

Blatter denied any conspiracy but conceded several dubious decisions had damaged the Italians.

"Unfortunately, through exceptional circumstances and coincidences, numerous and consecutive errors were concentrated on the Italian team," he said.


A South Korean's game-winning World Cup goal against Italy has set off a furor between his Italian club team and the Asian Football Confederation.

After Ahn Jung-hwan scored the overtime goal to eliminate Italy, the owner of Perugia of the top Italian division said Ahn would be cut.

That angered the confederation, which threatened to blacklist Perugia if the team gets rid of Ahn, meaning it would tell Asian players to stay away from the Italian club.

"I've warned all football officials in Japan, China and Korea about sending players to Perugia," confederation head Peter Velappan said.


The United States is an underdeveloped nation. Just ask Pele.

When it comes to the "beautiful game" that made the Brazilian star famous--he's still soccer's most popular figure 25 years after his last goal--America still isn't a global power. Of course, the way the United States has performed at this World Cup, great things might be ahead.

"People don't realize all the youngsters in the USA who all play soccer," Pele said. "There are 25 million kids ranging from the age of 8 to 25 playing in the States, and the No. 1 pastime of young Americans is soccer. It has great potential.

"But there are other important things. In this World Cup, the second-level team has played very good football and that is very important for the World Cup.

"It is important to give more attention to the sport in the United States and South Korea and the underdeveloped countries in football. This will be good for the future of the sport."

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