Tales abound of the riches lavished by Fifa on its own. With so much money in its coffers, it would seem an easy matter to ensure that all World Cup qualifying matches are controlled by competent officials. That, lamentably, was not the case in this week's clash between the All Whites and Tahiti.
Only two sets of officials from Oceania have been involved in Fifa tournaments, and, unfortunately, they came from New Zealand and Tahiti. But rather than address this by looking further afield, the regional confederation took a punt and appointed Bruce George (Vanuatu) and Solomon Islander Gerald Oiaka for the New Zealand-Tahiti clashes. The result was a debacle. In Christchurch, Oiaka failed to show the most obvious of red cards to the Tahitian captain.
The incredulity on the face of Ryan Nelsen, the All Whites captain, spoke volumes. This was not soccer as he knows it. Indeed, he and other All Whites had every right to feel insulted by the officiating after travelling vast distances to play the games. And if their professionalism is not matched by officials prepared to swiftly punish crude tackling, some may even reassess the wisdom of playing such matches.
The Oceania confederation has reacted by ensuring Asian referees will control New Zealand's last games in the World Cup qualifiers. But it should have foreseen what would happen in Christchurch. Not doing so made soccer a laughing stock.