By Tony Attwood
You’ve probably heard that Liverpool! had to leave Joël Matip out of their team to play Man U because, although he has publicly retired from international football, Cameroon still called him up for the Africa Cup. He didn’t go, but Fifa still haven’t ruled on the situation so he can’t play.
Bournemouth were recently in a similar situation after a player changed his mind about playing for his country, and WBA have found themselves involved in the mess with Allan Nyom, who has not played in their last two matches because they have not received any clarification from Fifa.
No club is willing to risk playing an ineligible player since it can lead to a points deduction from the club. But Fifa is Fifa – a mindless bunch of nincompoops who will not act unless there is something in it for them.
This is not the only problem that is currently circulating in football administration – the same is happening in terms of drugs testing, after Liverpool! fought WADA, the drugs agency, and threatened to sue WADA over the issue of Mamadou Sakho and his failed drugs test.
Eventually in that case the World Anti-Doping Agency said that they would not take on the fight against Uefa and Liverpool! although it was noted that Uefa had now put itself outside of the drugs control programme that the rest of the world of sport had signed up to over the issue of Higenamine.
Uefa’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body was thus not forced to face up to its break with WADA because WADA then said, “With the support of its List Expert Group, WADA thoroughly reviewed the full case file along with recently published articles on Higenamine, and WADA supported the List Expert Group’s unanimous view that Higenamine is a beta2-agonist and does indeed fall within the S3 class of the Prohibited List.
“However, after careful review of the specific circumstances of the case, WADA decided not to appeal. Mr Sakho had already served a provisional suspension of one month and, given the circumstances of the case, it is uncertain whether a significantly higher sanction would have been justified and obtained based on the Code and, more specifically, Mr Sakho’s degree of fault.”
All of this comes on top of repeated calls from experts on the issues of drugs in sport for football to do much, much more to catch drugs cheats.
As Arsenal fans we remember having nothing done in terms of action against Dinamo Zagreb after their man Arijan Ademi failed a drug test. Action was taken against the player but the club is allowed to get away without any sanction.
Now Manchester City have been charged by the FA for failing to provide accurate information about training arrangements and player whereabouts on three occasions over a 12-month period. Yet already, despite the seriousness of the offence, we are hearing that Man City will probably get away with a slap on the wrist.
An interesting issue raised here, which I don’t think has been picked up on by journalists, is why Man City constantly ignored a very simple and basic requirement of what are at best a lackadaisical set of rules. Just telling the regulator where the team is going to be not once, not twice, but three times shows either a level of contempt for the drug testing regulations, or a total ignorance of the regulations which ill-becomes a top club.
Part of the problem is the fact that drugs issues are treated as of minimal importance in football. Hence the Zagreb case, the Liverpool! case and now the Man City case. People involved in other sports generally look at the fact that only 200 tests a month are carried out in English football between all 92 clubs and the nine clubs in the Women’s Super League, as laughable. It means that each club has maybe two players tested a month; the feeling is that it needs to be around 20 per club per month. Even more oddly players are not tested in the close season. The Liverpool case and the Man City case show how clubs can by and large ignore the issue safe in the knowledge that nothing will be done.
Laughably, without proper evidence, the FA claims there is no drugs problem in English football, and that it has the most comprehensive drugs testing programme in world football. It is a bit like saying that the FA is the most respected association in world football. How does it know? And anyway, look what it is being measured against!
In most other sports players have to be available for testing 365 days a year by informing the authorities where they are.
Recently the Wada spokesman Ben Nichols said in an interview, “There are still countries where national anti-doping agencies are not permitted to test athletes or players, but instead the national federation is conducting the programme, and in many instances pursuant to rules which do not include correct results management.” He also noted that the FA was one of the better organisations in handling drugs issues. But Wada’s view is that footballers should be part of the standard athlete management system to ensure they are more comprehensively monitored and tested.
“We are optimistic that Fifa will begin using Wada’s Adams system in order to advance its use of the athlete biological passport, along with its other important anti-doping work,” Ben Nichols added. “Wada looks forward to meeting with Fifa in the coming months to discuss the advancement of their anti-doping program.”
But against this we have Manchester City’s deliberate ignoring of the rules, Liverpool and Uefa’s fight against WADA, the refusal of Uefa to take action against Zagreb as a club (which would certainly have encouraged them to tighten up their own drug testing system).
The problem is that the current uncertainty over which players can and can’t play for their clubs during the Africa Cup, and of course on a larger scale the Fifa corruption investigations, gives people in football the feeling that administration is boring and not really relevant A load of pen-pushers telling footballers what to do. Everything is fine with football. Say it enough and people believe it. We don’t need drugs tests in football, we can see the players are ok with the evidence of our own eyes.
Across the world football administration is a mess. You can always tell this is so when a controlling body says, “we have no problem.”
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