Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Little room to move in Fifa rules

PRE-GAME: Auckland City had to line up 8m from the sideline. Photo / AP
PRE-GAME: Auckland City had to line up 8m from the sideline. Photo / AP

It is not until you attend a Fifa-controlled tournament that you realise the level of planning and detail to the point of obsessive strictness that goes into running an event of this scale.

The Club World Cup is fairly low level, with just seven teams, across 10 days, it is considerably smaller than most run by Fifa but the same policies, plans and procedures are implemented.

Participating clubs had to submit photos (with exact measurements) of their full playing and training kit, as well as polo suits, tracksuits, jackets - anything worn by any team official at the tournament. After these were approved (or not) by Fifa, samples of each item had to be sent to Zurich to be officially checked by the marketing department.

On approval in Japan, teams were visited by a Fifa representative for a second time, while a Fifa marketing official entered the dressing room before each match to ensure there were no unapproved alterations to any part of the kit.

Even goalkeeping gloves have strict guidelines; the player's name cannot be more than 12sq cm, and only one manufacturer's identification (up to 20sq cm) and two quality seals are permitted.

Every stage of the countdown to kickoff is mandated (from players beginning warm up 50 minutes before the whistle, to substitutes leaving the dressing rooms 13 minutes before kickoff. The grass must be between 25mm and 28mm and teams should stand eight metres from the sideline for the national anthems.

At this tournament, there has even been a special Fifa mandated handshake - 'the handshake for peace', after a formal partnership with the Nobel Peace centre - which looked like the starting position before an arm wrestle.

Thirty seconds are allowed for the handshakes and 15 seconds for pre-match photos.

Even the end of the match has suggested outcomes for players; 1) join match officials in the centre circle; 2) conduct handshake for peace; 3) wave to the fans and; 4) leave the pitch with the officials.

Meanwhile, Chelsea will start strong favourites in tonight's final (11.45pm kickoff NZT) against Corinthians and a victory will help to ease some of the pressure on new interim manager Rafa Benitez.

The former Liverpool boss was never a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge and has yet to win over the Chelsea supporters, with the entire travelling contingent regularly singing chants in support of sacked manager Roberto De Matteo last Thursday.

However, Corinthians will feel as if they are back in Sao Paulo because more than 20,000 fans followed them to Japan. It is the club's first appearance in an international competition (apart from the 2000 Club World Cup) after their inaugural Copa Libertadores victory last year.

These supporters are the most fanatical in Brazil and it showed last Wednesday in their semifinal at the impressive but isolated Toyota Stadium. There was no accommodation for hundreds of the South American fanswho spent the hours until dawn (when the trains start) on the streets or in 24-hour food outlets.

According to local reports, some of the Brazilian team's fans have even left their jobs to be here, such is their devotion to the cause. Corinthians were unconvincing in their 1-0 win over African champions Al-Ahly from Egypt.

If they win this evening, it would break a five-year run of success for European teams at this event (AC Milan in 2007, Manchester in 2008, Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, and Inter Milan in 2010).


Michael Burgess travelled to Japan with the assistance of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

- Herald on Sunday

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