Right Reaction from Mo Farah

All too often when an athlete, from any sport, is found to be guilty of doping they come up with the excuse that ‘it must have been in a supplement given by my coach’ or something equally lame.

And then what do they do? Stick to their story and protest their innocence. The hope is to get as short a ban as possible. The tell-tale sign is the reaction of the athlete. Their reaction is just not right.

Mo Farah, who has never been implicated in doping, finds out his close and trusted coach, an American marathon legend, Alberto Salazar, has been accused of being involved with doping. Mo wants answers from his coach. Are the allegations true? Farah is implicated by association. There are several other runners under Salazar’s tutelage, but Farah is double Olympic gold medalist, currently the top middle distance runner on the planet, the big name, and potentially the big scalp.

Mo Farah wants answers, and if he doesn’t get the right answers then he is going to split. This is the right reaction: indignation, bordering on downright anger, culminating in a confrontation with the coach.

How many dopers subsequently confront and split from their coach? Hardly any it would seem. The coach has spiked your supplement with a PED and you don’t want answers? It can only be assumed that the athlete is party to the doping.

The Alberto Salazar saga is far from over, but Farah got his answers and they were good enough for him to continue in Salazar’s stable, Heaven help athletics if Farah knowingly or unknowingly succumbed to PEDs but his reaction was right, and the signs are good.

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Take Paraguay, for example

The quest to find out which is the best football team takes on all kinds of guises. For international football the general method comprises a tournament, consisting of small groups of teams playing each other, the highest rated teams then entering a knock-out stage, culminating in a final to determine the ultimate champions.

The recent Copa America (American Cup) is such a tournament to determine which nation is the footballing champion of South America. It has recently highlighted something distinctly dodgy with tournament football.

Take Paraguay, for example. In the recently ended 2015 tournament Paraguay reached the semi-final (best 4), going though 4 matches to reach this stage. However Paraguay won only a single game, against guest team Jamaica, 1-0. For the record the other games were 1-1 against Uruguay, 2-2 against Argentina, and 1-1 against Brazil, which Paraguay eventually prevailed 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.

So Paraguay reached the semi-final having scored 5 goals and conceding 4, and wining only once against Jamaica, a nation which is not exactly considered a footballing powerhouse.

So this kind of thing sometimes happens, what’s the problem? Why shouldn’t a relatively lesser nation have its chance for glory once and a while. It’s boring if the same teams win all the time. I have a lot of sympathy with this view, but let’s also look at the previous tournament.

In the 2011 Copa America Paraguay advanced all the way to the final. This time it didn’t win any of its matches. It drew the lot. Again for the record, 0-0 against Ecuador, 2-2 against Brazil, 3-3 against Venezuela, 0-0 against Brazil (2-0 on penalties), and 0-0 against Venezuela (5-3 on penalties).

In the knock-out stage Paraguay played 4 hours of football without scoring, winning both games in penalty shoot-outs. In fact it would have been possible to win the final in the same way, thereby becoming champions without winning a single game.

Paraguay did what they had to do, and were totally within the laws of the game, but two consecutive tournaments reaching the final in one and the semi-final in the other, stellar achievements, through winning only one match does not seem right.

Just to end the Paraguay saga, it was beaten 1-6 by Argentina in the 2015 semi-final, and 0-3 by Uruguay in the 2011 final.

I have my own ideas for solutions, but my eternal frustration is with FIFA. This, and many other anomalies in football are simply being ignored. FIFA seems only concerned about keeping the status quo, the same people on the same gravy train.

Improvements for the Throw-In

Gaining illegal ground at the throw-in has become so endemic in modern football that no-one seems to notice it any more. Aren’t there others out there like me who are totally fed up with it? I suppose it will become an issue when either it is done to such extremes that it simply cannot be overlooked, or when a trophy-winning goal is scored when the ball has been thrown in from clearly the wrong place. My personal dislike for the throw-in shuffle is documented in the preceding article, but what can be done? Here is a list off the top of my head.

  • The referees can come down hard and strictly enforce the existing law (ie a throw in is to be taken at the same point at which the ball left the playing field). If it isn’t then it is deemed a foul throw and the throw is awarded to the other team.
  • The referee, or assistant referee makes a small mark in the turf at the point at which the throw is to be taken.
  • The referee or assistant referee uses vanishing spray to denote the point at which the throw is to be taken. This is my favourite idea. As an optional extra the assistant referee could have the vanishing spray stored in his flagstick, and he just shoots it out onto the turf.
  • The sidelines are divided into (say) 10 sectors with small permanent marks on the sidelines to identify the sectors. The throw is then taken on the mark behind where the ball left play.
  • The referee stands in line with the place at which the throw is to be taken.

One flaw to be overcome is that the assistant referee only covers half of the sideline, but the referee runs the diagonal between the unmanned sidelines so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It must be stressed that these are merely my ideas which haven’t taken much time to figure out. Some may be more workable than others. A committee of experts should come up with a raft of workable ideas in no time. But that is exactly what FIFA doesn’t do. FIFA’s reforms centre around FIFA, not football’s on-field issues. There’s a lot of catching up to do.