Belfast Telegraph

Trapattoni wants answers from FIFA after play-off loss

By Hugh Farrelly

Psychologists tell us there are seven stages of grief. It is a process that begins with shock, works through denial, anger, bargaining, pain and depression before the eventual arrival at ... well, we'll get back to that one later.

Yesterday, at the FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, having come through the shock of Thierry Henry's illegal role in William Gallas' goal and the denial of the Republic of Ireland's World Cup dream collapsing about them, it was all about the anger - with a bit of bargaining thrown in.

Even with a clutch of soccer journalists stranded in Paris, the FAI's press conference room was bristling with cameras, microphones, dictaphones and indignation as the Republic manager Giovanni Trapattoni arrived to pass judgment.

If the Republic had gone out limply in Paris after sticking to the Italian's pragmatic but rigid system, the anger would have been flung in the manager's direction, with all the old chestnuts of Andy Reid, Steven Reid, Stephen Ireland and innate conservatism used as missiles.

However, the wonderfully compelling nature of the Republic’s performance and sense of injustice behind its failure to overturn the obstacles stacked against them saw a target shift.

FIFA, France, Henry and the Swedish chef, sorry ref, were in the cross-hairs for cooking up this travesty and Trapattoni was urged to pull the trigger.

He didn't disappoint. Though the 70-year-old struggled valiantly to appear sanguinely reflective — exonerating Henry by saying it was not up to the striker to approach and own up to the referee and initially refusing to consider the possibility of a replay — the ball kept being lobbed up and Trap began to swing.

The play-off seedings: “That for me is bitter because there are many questions about the criteria. Three months ago they changed the rules about the seeded teams, and about which team plays first. The first seed was Russia and we were the last team in the ranking. We could have lost against Russia or Portugal, but that's not the point.

“I cannot answer the questions. They (FIFA) have the responsibility, they must decide in the future.”

Referee: “I would only like to ask FIFA to explain how they select referees for these important games because there have been many, many situations in the past also (like this). For this situation we need a strong referee and it's important what criteria they use.

“I have spoken about this in the past, in Europe and in the last World Cup.”

Playing at home in the first leg: “I think I am entitled to ask why out of the non-seeded teams we were the only team to play at home in the first leg. It is normal psychologically to have a different reaction when playing home and away.”

Extra time: “I wish only to say that I would advise FIFA maybe in the future to change the rules about the play-off — play two 90 minute games and discard extra-time, because there is a big advantage for the home side. The play-off has to be the same for both countries. It's very important, both countries deserve there to be no doubt because mistakes are made in life.

“I have seen situations in 30 years of football. So play 90 minutes and 90 minutes, and then either have penalties or play again when it comes to the World Cup or European Championships.”

Video technology: “Video in the future is necessary because our federation loses money, loses credibility. FIFA and UEFA speak about that, they have tried it in a friendly game and I think it would be necessary. They should look at see it it's a goal.

“Thirty seconds to stop the game is better to clarify the situation. I like sports like rugby, a man's game, I don't know the rules of rugby but there is a video referee. They (FIFA) have spoken about it a lot and in the future they will have to do something about it.”

FIFA's vested interests: “You can change the rules, change the interest in money, imagine all sports losing credibility about this situation. I am disappointed for our fans, because they deserve better. They followed us in Paris — 15,000 to 30,000. I am not sure it (a replay) is possible but I would like FIFA to prove me wrong. Think they will? No, our next game is March, there are a lot of games, Champions League, Europa League, there isn't a date. But now there is interest, sponsor, fans, television, newspaper. The world that goes around football grows. It is not easy to swallow.”

Trapattoni began yesterday's press conference by dismissing the notion of a replay as “impossible” but when later informed of the FAI's letters to FIFA and the French Federation, the manager did concede that: “I agree with the federation (FAI) but it is not up to me but if FIFA decide it is okay, we are ready.”

When Trapattoni exited the stage visibly exhausted from venting, it was FAI chief executive John Delaney's turn and, once again, outrage filled the air.

Words like “integrity” and “travesty” were issued with studied fury while the French were told that they “need to look at themselves” and agree to a replay (bargaining).

It was a powerful, theatrical performance from Delaney with all the necessary emotional ingredients for maximum impact, but there was a eunuch-like quality to it all — a over-riding sense of passionate futility.

This led to further anger from the floor with aggressive questioning centring around the theme of “What's the point, John? It's never going to happen.”

The grieving process is not a swift one and, given that there are far graver things than sporting injustice taking place on a daily basis in this country, it is well to keep a sense of perspective and return again to the words of Sonia O'Sullivan's father, John, when rationalising her failure at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta — “nobody died”.

However, the reverberations from Wednesday night are being felt around the world and “in mourning” is the best way to describe the mood of a shattered nation which yesterday was expressed through anger.

That will travel through pain and depression over the next few days as the realisation dawns on us that nothing is going to be done to bring the Republic’s World Cup aspirations back from the grave until eventually the process reaches its natural conclusion.

What is the final stage? Acceptance — but we are a bit off that yet.

Belfast Telegraph


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