Global nature of World Cup finals draw lost in translation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 December, 1997, 12:00am

Parlez-vous Francais? If not, you had better brush up on your Japanese and Korean if you want to make sense of the draw for the 2002 World Cup finals.

Confused? You must have been in the early hours of Friday morning when non-French speakers were effectively sidelined during the draw for next year's tournament.

It appears that the French organising committee, led by the redoubtable Michel Platini, won a battle with FIFA to stage the proceedings in French.

The only nod to English, an official language of FIFA, was in the names that came out of the coloured balls. So we had the totally confusing situation of 'Scotland' and 'Holland' being drawn only to appear as Ecosse and Pays Bay on the graphics.

The multi-lingual general secretary of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, went along with the 'French-only' decree and at one stage embarrassed the respected Franz Beckenbauer by blabbering away to him in a tongue he failed to comprehend.

Although, for the most part, the draw was quite straightforward, anyone who flunked French at school would have been hopelessly lost when Japan were drawn in Group H when it appeared they should have been placed in Group C along with hosts France.

Blatter's explanation - in French, of course - went way over the heads of Andrew Sams and his soccer sidekicks, who were casting an expert eye over the draw for TVB Pearl.

Sams and Co came across as knowledgeable on football matters but as far as they knew, merci beaucoup was a striker for Marseille. They were tripped up completely by the French folly perpetrated by Blatter and babbled away about a mistake having been made, teams having to be re-drawn and, even, their own graphics being wrong.

While showman Blatter is no doubt already brushing up on his Korean and Japanese for the 2002 draw, it's to be hoped that sense prevails and there is a healthy element of English so that billions worldwide can follow what's going on.

By the time 2002 comes around, FIFA may also have come to its senses over the seeding procedure and the keeping apart of teams from the same region.

England might still be living on their World Cup 1966 success but they deserved to be seeded this time, pure and simply because they qualified ahead of Italy.

FIFA has a ranking system and that should be used to determine the seedings. Teams should be seeded on their ability, in batches of eight, with the luck of the draw determining the rest.

There was rejoicing in some quarters after Thursday's draw that it did not throw up a so-called 'Group of Death'.

In reality, spectators would rather see games involving regional rivalry and powerhouse teams than mis-matches. The draw should not have been manufactured to prevent Iran facing up to Japan in a re-run of their gripping Asian play-off encounter, or Argentina meeting South American rivals Paraguay.

Separate the teams on calibre, sure, but not along regional lines.

The World Cup is a global event and the draw should reflect that intrinsically and linguistically.