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FIFA foul play

16 January 2017 | Lloyd Hughes

Before you read this, take a moment to sit down.

Maybe get a cup of tea to steady your nerves.

Ready?

FIFA had some bad PR this weekend. 

I know, I know, that’s pretty hard to digest. FIFA, formally known as Blatter’s cartel, had some bad PR. 

It wasn’t ‘corrupt on a global scale’ bad PR, but it was bad PR all the same.

As a Liverpool fan there’s no fixture I anticipate more than the twice seasonal Premier League clash with Manchester United.

But, despite the usual high expectations, I also had trepidation about Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford due to our squad depth. With the electric Sadio Mane off at the Africa Cup of Nations, Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho not fully fit, and a late injury to Nathaniel Clyne to contend with(all of whom are key players and certain starters for Liverpool when fit), the squad was looking paper thin.

Joel Matip in particular has been rock solid at centre back, and has been our stand out defender this season. His injury before Christmas was a real blow and Liverpool have suffered defensively since.

Injury updates from the club suggested that he was just in the process of returning in time for the big match…until FIFA threw a spanner in the works.

Matip, despite being born in Germany, has a Cameroonian mother and is consequently eligible to be picked for the Cameroon AFCON squad, which is currently happening in Gabon over the next few weeks.

Matip is only 25, yet has apparently retired from international football after falling out with the national team around a year ago following a ‘bad experience’. He said he didn’t want to be considered for the AFCON squad and was withdrawing himself.

The coach, however, had other ideas and insisted he would still pick him. This has led to an unseemly spat, with the Cameroon national team and coach, Hugo Broos, threatening to seek FIFA sanctions to ban Matip during the course of the tournament if he wouldn’t play for them.

At the time I thought this was risible. How can he be banned to play for his club team when 1) he’s clearly stated he doesn’t want to play internationally and 2) the club pay him thousands of pounds in wages to play for them? Cameroon don’t pay his wages. He has no official contract with them. They can’t force him to play if he doesn’t want to and he’s not in breach of any obligation.

It seems ridiculous that Cameroon can’t accept his decision, and I thought FIFA would dismiss a ban out of hand as unenforceable and without any grounds whatsoever other than a serious case of sour grapes.

It appears not though, as Liverpool were forced to leave him out of the squad for Sunday’s crucial match.

The club issued a statement saying it had sought assurances from FIFA that there would be no repercussions in playing him but failed to receive an answer.

Arguably the biggest game in the Premier League calendar, and one that generates huge interest around the world, was missing a key player thanks to FIFA’s incompetence.

Matip was an injury doubt anyway, and I can’t help but suspect he wasn’t actually fit, but by firing up the FIFA are sh*te flare ahead of kick off, Liverpool made FIFA look suitably inept on a very public platform.

Not that FIFA will be that bothered. The organisation has had far worse thrown at it over recent years, and it’s just another bit of mud thrown on its pigsty resembling reputation.

It was a smart move from Liverpool though. The club has no doubt had grief with FIFA behind closed doors, but by throwing it out in the open ahead of one of the biggest club games out there, it’s left FIFA looking sheepishly at the floor in the light of its failings once again.