Forget about sending your child to skills camps with Declan Edge's academy in the capital city or to feeder clubs at Wellington Phoenix or to Auckland City FC to chase the dream in the beautiful game.

Instead, start enrolling them into Graeco-Roman wrestling clubs (a Google surf reveals a few exist in the country) and acting schools, with perhaps a solid foundation in gymnastics for overall suppleness.

That's because the tribes have spoken at the Fifa World Cup in Russia in the past fortnight.

Referees will decide who will make it to the playoffs and, ultimately, go on to become champions in Moscow on July 16.


Just as the world was divided into those who championed the bunker mentality and those who embraced attack with flair in the yesteryear, you now have nations who have mastered the art of seatbelt tackling and head elbowing versus those who have grasped the craft of diving and feigning injuries.

It seems the wrestlers have the edge over the divers, if the video assistant referees' (VARs) rulings, in conjunction with actions of the whistle blowers and flag carriers, are anything to go by.

Apparently multitudes, including those in New Zealand, are out of touch with reality in predicting the popular philosophy to find success in the code.

I think all the naysayers owe New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin and coach/administrator Andreas Heraf, of Austria, an apology.

Martin and Heraf certainly have their finger on the Fifa pulse but, of course, that doesn't necessarily mean a fair chunk of people in New Zealand genuinely believe that's where the sport should be heading.

Heraf was brought in to impart knowledge on how to lift the physicality stakes and how to become embroiled in passages of play that will demand official intervention to resolve.

Can the Football Ferns feign an injury or commit a foul and yet keep a straight face?

Okay, so it's safe to say Heraf didn't graduate from the school of diplomacy, judging by his post-match remarks, but that is usually the first thing to go when you have to turn a squad of players into world beaters on short notice.


The 13-player mutiny suggests the Football Ferns totally didn't get Heraf's tactics, instead opting to submit letters of allegations around bullying, intimidation and a culture of fear.

Come on Ferns, you need to toughen up and smartly, too.

How on earth are you going to run the VAR gauntlet at the Fifa Women's World Cup this time next year in France if you can't handle the Jandal that Heraf and Co are dishing out to you now?

Newcastle Jets striker Roy O'Donovan, for his karate-style kick to the head of Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas, and Wellington Phoenix defender Marco Rossi, for his squirrel grip on Jets winger Justin Hoffman, this year would have got some great big-screen TV time in Russia.

The A-League disciplinary panel hasn't got a clue. The Irishman and Italian displayed exactly the skills that the bulk of the naive players simply can't grasp to foot it on the big stage.

Are super stars, such as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, getting away with things more often than other players? Photo / Photosport
Are super stars, such as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, getting away with things more often than other players? Photo / Photosport

Fifa has played its hand on what sort of philosophy it wants its affiliates to adopt, on evidence of what has transpired at the World Cup so far and, dare I say it, will continue to do all the way to the final.

My guess is New Zealand is way behind the eight ball.

The first round of the tournament has revealed why even 32 teams are too many because not everyone is in the same league.

Even if one makes allowances for the probability that some big dogs are trying not to peak too early, there is enough to suggest Fifa is hellbent on spreading its gospel in paving easier pathways for a more global representation.

Some of the confederations, such as Africa, Europe and South America, will suffer because the demands of qualifying in their continents will make it harder than, say, Asia, the Middle East and Oceania regions.

Okay I'm done with the tongue-in-cheek genre so I'm going to lay it down for those who don't lead their lives with a daily dose of cynicism.

The answer isn't in an NCEA-type sense of inclusiveness and worthiness but actually pouring resources into the underprivileged areas to plant the seeds of growth so that when they qualify for the World Cup they will have actually earned the right to be there.

It doesn't require a band of economists to work out that bumping up the tourney to say, for argument's sake, 48 will help fill Fifa's coffers to the brim.

Again the label "the beautiful game" will become redundant because it's "the ugly game" that is more likely to make the code more accessible to the guileless countries in the numbers game.

Fifa has already set the world order and it is in the throes of launching it at the venues of Russia.

The hosts, drugs or not, Croatia, Portugal or even Japan will make quite a sexy endorsement to shift suggestions that only a fish pond of power houses tend to etch their name on the Coup de Monde every four years.

While the persistent intervention of officials may be unpalatable, you have to give it to the organisers for creating a maze of permutations on who actually are likely to proceed to and from the second stage of the competition because prowess in itself isn't enough to guarantee success.

Poland's Lukasz Piszczek shows Senegal's marking technique will be hard to find in the coaching manuals. Photo / Photosport
Poland's Lukasz Piszczek shows Senegal's marking technique will be hard to find in the coaching manuals. Photo / Photosport