North Korea, FIFA and an American Division of Labo(u)r?

FIFA’s intervention in the attempt by North Korea’s coach Kim Jong Hun to select forward Kim Myong Won in its squad while being named as one of the three designated goalkeepers is being portrayed in wildly different ways, once the governing board ruled the forward would only actually be able to play as a goalkeeper. So who’s to blame: Kim Jong Hun, Sepp Blatter or AMERICA?

For the veteran soccer reporter Grahame Jones of the Los Angeles Times, the verdict on North Korea’s attempt to play with their squad in this way was damning: “Cheating, is what it amounted to, really.”

Jones then offers a rather patronising verdict on North Korea’s chance:

Not that it matters in the long run. Coach Kim Jong-hun’s team plays Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal in the first round, after which it will be on a plane headed home. All it has achieved by the bizarre move is to ruin what little chance it had, which was none.

Nevermind 1966 and all that, eh?

In England, Patrick Barclay of The Times paints the opposite tale, making FIFA the bad guy for their heavy-handed oversight of the issue:

What bureaucratic nonsense. Quite apart from its flight in the face of Fifa’s own Law 3, which states that “any of the other players may change places with the goalkeeper” provided that the switch is made during a stoppage and with the referee’s knowledge, it unfairly curbs the freedom of the coach, in this case Kim Jong Hun, to do something unorthodox and risky.

FIFA’s rule on this was clear in its regulations for the FIFA World Cup, released some time ago: “Each association will then be required to provide FIFA with a final list of no more than 23 players (three of whom shall be goalkeepers).”

But Barclay’s bigger point is whether such a division of labour should be required by FIFA at all, blaming a “vaguely American” desire for this:

It is already irritating enough that the squads apparently have to be split into groups for delivery to Fifa, midfield players being separated from strikers and so on in a way that seems vaguely American; the next thing we know, someone from Fifa will dictate that it is against the regulations for, say, Emile Heskey to help out in defence because he is listed as a striker (itself a fairly ludicrous proposition).

Barclay’s final conclusion is, of course, quite the stretch. But does he have a point that FIFA is unnecessarily restricting the freedom of coaches to use their squad in any way they wish?  Or is Jones on the ball with the old “rules are rules” card? Or is it all AMERICA’S FAULT?

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