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List of 2010 FIFA World Cup controversies


List of 2010 FIFA World Cup controversies

The 2010 FIFA World Cup generated various controversies, including some from before the tournament started. Most centred on refereeing.


  • Qualification 1
    • France vs. Republic of Ireland 1.1
    • Algeria vs. Egypt 1.2
  • Animal sacrifices 2
  • Group stage 3
    • Brazil vs. Côte d'Ivoire 3.1
    • USA vs. Slovenia 3.2
    • Australia vs. Serbia 3.3
  • Round of 16 4
  • Suárez handball 5
  • French team discord 6
  • Final 7
  • Others 8
    • Matchball 8.1
    • Nigeria team ban 8.2
    • North Korea 8.3
  • References 9


France vs. Republic of Ireland

In the second leg of the qualification play-off match between France and the Republic of Ireland on 18 November 2009, French captain Thierry Henry, unseen by the referee and other match officials, illegally handled the ball twice in the lead up to the winning goal. The incident caused widespread debate about FIFA Fair Play, and how matches should be refereed at the highest level. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) requested a re-play of the game on grounds of fairness, but was denied by FIFA under the Laws of the Game.[1] On 2 December, FIFA called an extraordinary general meeting of the Executive Committee to discuss various issues, with the Henry incident high on the agenda. FIFA announced they would be setting up an inquiry into technology and extra officials in the game, but they did not announce a widely expected move of the fast-tracked introduction of goal-line referee's assistants, already being trialed in the UEFA Europa League, and confirmed the competition in South Africa would be officiated as normal with a referee, two assistants, and a fourth official.[2] On the subject of fair Play, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said:

"I appeal to all the players and coaches to observe this fair play. In 2010 we want to prove that football is more than just kicking a ball but has social and cultural value...So we ask the players 'please observe fair play' so they will be an example to the rest of the world".[3]

Algeria vs. Egypt

Animal sacrifices

Plans to slaughter a cow at each stadium to be used for the World Cup generated concern among animal rights groups. The Makhonya Royal Trust, proposed the concept stating the cattle killing event was a "true African" way of blessing the tournament.[4]

"We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast. We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well. The World Cup will be on the African continent and we will make sure that African values and cultures are felt by the visitors."[4]

The issue of cattle sacrifice was discussed by a High Court. Judge Nic Van der Reyden said the matter needed to be taken up by politicians.[5]

An ox was slaughtered at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium on 25 May. A place was created within the Soccer City precinct to act as a "kraal" where the ox was slaughtered. After that, the senior traditional healers walked into the stadium in song, drum-beating and dance, where they continued to bless the inside of the stadium with rituals.[5]

Group stage

Brazil vs. Côte d'Ivoire

Brazilian striker Luís Fabiano handled the ball twice in the build-up to Brazil's second goal, which helped Brazil win the match 3–1.[6] Brazilian midfielder Kaká was sent off late in the game for a collision with Ivorian midfielder Kader Keïta. Replays showed Keïta had run into Kaká's side, deliberately striking Kaká's shoulder, and then fell to the ground holding his face in a successful attempt to have Kaká sent off.[7]

USA vs. Slovenia

With the match tied 2–2 in the 86th minute, Maurice Edu of the United States appeared to score the lead goal off of a set piece, but had it waved off by referee Koman Coulibaly. Replays showed numerous Slovenian players pulling and hanging on Americans, fighting for positioning in the box. Because Coulibaly had blown the play dead before the goal had been scored, he was not required to, and did not, explain the foul. He merely blew the play dead without declaring what foul had been called or on whom he had called it. US striker Robbie Findley was also given a mysterious yellow card due to a handball, which resulted in him missing the next match against Algeria. Although the match ended in a 2–2 draw, ultimately the United States went on to win the group. Coulibaly received a "poor" performance review for the match and was selected only to one additional match in the tournament, as the 4th referee[8]

Australia vs. Serbia

After the previous two matches, both had a mathematical chance of qualifying. However, with the other game being Ghana against Germany, Serbia seemingly had the best chance to advance to the next round. Australia scored a surprising two goals in the early minutes of the second half after Serbia squandered several chances. The European outsiders got one back after the Australian goalkeeper could not hold in a shot taken by Zoran Tosic, and was put in the net by Marko Pantelic. During the last minutes of the match, Tim Cahill clearly hit the ball with his hand in the box, which should have been a penalty for Serbia. The referees did not catch it, and play continued. With Ghana losing to Germany 1–0, a scored penalty would have given Serbia second place in the group and advancement to the Round of 16.

Round of 16

On 27 June during two round of 16 matches – the disallowing of England midfielder Frank Lampard's goal against Germany, and an Argentinian goal against Mexico allowed despite scored from an offside position – led to renewed debate over the lack of video technology in refereeing.[9][10][11][12][13]

During England's 4–1 loss to Germany, Lampard's shot hit the crossbar and then crossed the

  1. ^ "FIFA statement on FAI request". FIFA. 2009-11-20. Archived from the original on 2009-11-20. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  2. ^ "FIFA reject extra referees proposal". Press Association. 2009-12-02. Archived from the original on 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  3. ^ "Fifa to investigate Thierry Henry handball". BBC Sport. 2009-12-02. Archived from the original on 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  4. ^ a b World Cup stadium 'cow sacrifice' plan sparks row. BBC News website, updated at 16:22 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009.
  5. ^ a b Sangomas sacrifice ox to bless the World Cup stadiums. Cape Times.
  6. ^ "World Cup 2010: Eriksson tips Brazil to win Cup". BBC Sport. 20 June 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  7. ^ "World Cup 2010: Red-carded Kaka will focus on form". BBC Sport. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "USA vs. Slovenia 2010 World Cup: Koman Coulibaly Costs the U.S. and May Be Out". Bleacher Report. 19 June 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "England v Germany: Fifa want 'better refereeing' not goal-line technology", The Telegraph, June 27, 2010
  10. ^ "Mondial: le but refusé à Lampard va relancer le débat sur la vidéo", AFP, June 27, 2010
  11. ^ "World Cup 2010: Lampard calls for goal-line technology", BBC, June 27, 2010
  12. ^ "World Cup 2010: Gordon Smith calls for use of goal-line technology", The Telegraph, June 26, 2010
  13. ^ "World Cup 2010: Sports minister joins calls for goal-line technology", The Guardian, June 27, 2010
  14. ^ "England v Germany: Frank Lampard denied goal by Uruguayan linesman - in pictures". The Daily Telegraph (London). 27 June 2010. 
  15. ^ "FAW boss rejects technology idea". BBC News. 28 June 2010. 
  16. ^ Garside, Kevin (27 June 2010). "England v Germany: Frank Lampard's disallowed goal highlights stupidity of Fifa". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  17. ^ "Argentina 3-1 Mexico", BBC, June 27, 2010
  18. ^ Argentina - Mexico, BBC, June 27, 2010
  19. ^ "FIFA, don't ignore the Blunder in Bloemfontein", Associated Press, June 27, 2010
  20. ^ "World Cup errors highlight need for technology rethink", The Times (South Africa), June 28, 2010
  21. ^ "World Cup 2010: Blatter sorry for disallowed goal", BBC, June 29, 2010
  22. ^ "World Cup 2010: Sepp Blatter says sorry to England for disallowed goal", The Guardian, June 29, 2010
  23. ^ a b Doward, Jamie (4 July 2010). "Luis Suarez is new World Cup villain after 'hand of God' claim". The Guardian (London). 
  24. ^ Tabarez tires of cheat calls. . CBS Sports, 06 Jul 2010 | 10:07 SAST.
  25. ^ Chadband, Ian (3 July 2010). "World Cup 2010: Uruguay's Luis Suárez revels in second coming of Hand of God". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  26. ^ Chadband, Ian (3 July 2010). "World Cup 2010: Uruguay's Luis Suárez revels in second coming of Hand of God".  
  27. ^ Fletcher, Paul (3 July 2010). "Luis Suarez - hero or villain?". BBC Sport. Retrieved 3 July 2010. 
  28. ^ "Ghana calls for Fifa rule change". BBC News. 7 July 2010. 
  29. ^ a b [1]
  30. ^ "World Cup 2010: Nicolas Anelka sent home after bust-up". The Guardian. 19 June 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  31. ^ Agence France-Presse (20 June 2010). "French football in chaos after players' mutiny". Google. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  32. ^ "Brazil advances, Italy held to another WCup draw". Associated Press (Google). 20 June 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  33. ^ Bachelot reduces French World Cup players to tears. , archived online.
  34. ^ "World Cup 2010: French sports minister blasts France squad over protest". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 June 2010. 
  35. ^ a b "World Cup 2010: Domenech snubs Parreira handshake".  
  36. ^ "World Cup 2010: French chief quits after fiasco". BBC Sport. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  37. ^ [2]
  38. ^ Blanc in but Evra could be out: Laurent Blanc officially takes over while France legend Lilian Thuram calls for captain Patrice Evra to be banned, CBS Sports; 02 Jul 2010 | 15:11 SAST. Archived online.
  39. ^ "France World Cup squad suspended for Norway friendly". BBC Sport. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  40. ^ "Nicolas Anelka laughs at 'nonsense' 18-match French ban". BBC Sport. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2010. 
  41. ^ Davies, Lizzy (17 August 2010). "Nicolas Anelka suspended for 18 matches by France over World Cup revolt". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2010. 
  42. ^ Wilson, Paul (25 August 2010). "I should have shown Nigel de Jong a red card, says Howard Webb". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  43. ^ How ambush marketing ambushed sport. BBC News Magazine. Page last updated at 08:30 GMT, Thursday, 17 June 2010 09:30 UK.
  44. ^ Controversy over new World Cup ball. By Helen Chandler, CNN. June 3, 2010 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT).
  45. ^ North Korea's failed World Cup footballers undergo public mauling : Footballers subjected to six-hour excoriation on stage for 'betraying' North Korea and Kim Jong-il's son and heir, Justin McCurry. The, Friday 30 July 2010 17.31 BST.


The North Korean team cancelled its national championship to prepare for the Cup via a world tour. Following the perceived poor performance of the team, particularly against Portugal, the team were forced to blame the coach to avoid punishment on their return to North Korea.[45]

North Korea

In the aftermath of the tournament, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan announced a 2-year ban on the men's national side due to its perceived poor performance. This move drew serious criticism and condemnation for all sides, and FIFA threatened sanctions in return for what it saw as "political interference". The ban was lifted shortly after.

Nigeria team ban

The official ball for the tournament, the Jabulani, was widely criticized[44] by several players, although others came out in its defence.


In the Holland v Denmark group stage match, several women were removed from the stadium and later detained. It later emerged they were models for Bavaria beer.[43]


Both teams were fined by FIFA due to the ill-discipline of the match. Despite this, Spain was still awarded FIFA's Fair Play award for the tournament after the final, Spain had earned only 8 yellow cards throughout (the lowest of the four semi-finalists).

The final was particularly controversial due to the high number of yellow cards issued (fourteen, resulting in one sending-off). The most notable incident was Nigel de Jong's kick into the midriff of Alonso, punished only with a booking from referee Howard Webb, who subsequently admitted he should have shown a red card.[42]


New manager Laurent Blanc suspended the entire World Cup squad for their next game against Norway by the FFF[39] and five players were identified as having been key to the embarrassing events at the tournament, Nicolas Anelka, Patrice Evra, Franck Ribéry, Jérémy Toulalan and Éric Abidal were summoned to a hearing before the FFF discipliniary committee on 17 August 2010. After the expulsion of Anelka and ensuing training strike, Evra and Ribéry were summoned for failing in their duties as captain and vice captain, Toulalan was seen as the originator of the statement read out by coach Domenech to the media, while Abidal was accused of refusing to play in the final group match. After the hearing, Anelka was banned from playing for France for 18 games, Evra was banned for five, Ribéry for three, and Toulalan for one, while Abidal escaped punishment. Anelka dismissed the sanction as irrelevant, considering himself already retired from international football.[40][41]

The French team flew home in economy class. The fallout continued after the team's return to France, with FFF President Jean-Pierre Escalettes announcing his resignation.[36] Escalettes has stated that Anelka would never be picked again for the national team.[37] Former defender Lilian Thuram has said "I asked for the players to be severely punished and for Patrice Evra never to come back into the France team. When you are captain of France, there is a responsibility and a respect for the shirt and for people that you have to have."[38]

Following the team's final defeat to hosts South Africa, Domenech refused to shake the hand of opposing coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.[35] Domenech was strongly criticized in the French press, with sports daily L'Équipe accusing Domenech of "arrogance and an attitude of contempt for others".[35]

On the orders of President Nicolas Sarkozy, Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot held an emotional meeting with the team where she admonished the players saying "How would you like people to remember you? What image do you want to leave behind?".[33] This reportedly reducing the players, especially the younger ones, to tears and they applauded her. Later at an impromptu media briefing at the Free State Stadium, Bachelot said "I told the players they had tarnished the image of France. It is a morale disaster for French football. I told them they could no longer be heroes for our children. They have destroyed the dreams of their countrymen, their friends and supporters." The players apologized to Domenech and resumed practice the next day. Patrice Evra was dropped for the final group game.[29][34]

Striker Nicolas Anelka delivered a profanity-laden criticism at Domenech as the team was losing to Mexico.[30] Anelka was sent home after refusing to apologize. The next day, captain and left wingback Patrice Evra was caught on camera in a heated argument with trainer Robert Duverne, which eventually led to intervention by others in the camp.[31] The players boycotted training for one day in protest of the FFF decision to dismiss Anelka. In turn, managing director Jean-Louis Valentin then resigned in disgust at the players' actions.[32]

The French team had significant troubles with team dissension at the World Cup. The press was strongly critical of both players and coaches. This followed a highly disappointing UEFA Euro 2008 first round exit, and a difficult qualification campaign. After controversially winning their play-off meeting with Ireland, the French players appeared aloof to the public as they headed straight for the dressing room instead of signing autographs. Several players were questioned by police just prior to the Finals in South Africa, following a raid on a Paris nightclub renowned for arranging dates between wealthy clients and underage prostitutes. Before the tournament began, the French Football Federation (FFF) announced that head coach Raymond Domenech would leave his position at the end of the tournament.[29]

Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the World Cup, and was one of five players summoned to the FFF for discord

French team discord

The African press named Uruguay public enemy No.1 and described them as cheats. [24] Suárez was unapologetic about his handball, stating "I made the best save of the tournament."[25] Suárez boasted after the match of his handball save, claiming that "The 'Hand of God' now belongs to me," a reference to the handball goal scored by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup. Ghana's coach Milovan Rajevac argued that Suárez's actions were "really shocking," describing the result as a "football injustice."[26] Uruguay's coach Óscar Tabárez defended Suárez: "Saying we cheated Ghana is too harsh a word to use...We also abide by what the referee did. It could have been a mistake. Yes, he stuck his hand out, but it's not cheating. What else do you want? Is Suárez also to blame for Ghana missing the penalty? We try to be dignified, and if we lose a match, we look for the reasons for it. You shouldn't look to third parties."[23] FIFA reviewed the possibility of increasing Suárez's ban but decided against punishing him for 'unsportsmanlike conduct'. This opened up a discussion on gamesmanship, asking the question of whether players in that situation should be condemned as a cheat, or applauded for their resourcefulness. One pundit, Paul Fletcher of the BBC, implied that most players would do the same thing in the 'heat of the moment' in order to avoid defeat.[27] Ghana's sports minister, Akua Sena Dansua, called for changes to the rules in such circumstances.[28]

In a quarter-final match against Ghana, Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez handled the ball to prevent a last minute Ghana goal.[23] Suárez was shown a red card and Ghana's Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty spot kick. Ghana subsequently lost the match 4–2 in the penalty shootout.

Luis Suárez (left)

Suárez handball

A few days later, FIFA President Sepp Blatter stated that he deplored the "evident referee mistakes" in the England vs. Germany and Mexico vs. Argentina matches, and apologised to the English and Mexican football federations ("the two federations directly concerned by referee's mistakes"). He added: "It is obvious that after the experiences so far at this World Cup it would be a nonsense not to re-open the file on goal-line technology. [...] We will come out with a new model in November on how to improve high level referees. [...] I cannot disclose more of what we are doing but something has to be changed."[21][22]

"two great victories [...] overshadowed by controversies emanating from two crucial mistakes made by match officials".[20]

The press spoke of:

"FIFA fears that technology would undermine the authority of referees and their assistants. But the reverse is in fact happening. Match officials are being made to look like idiots because they are not getting the help that they need. [...] [B]alls, as Lampard proved, can bounce in and out of goal so quickly that a linesman can miss it if he's not paying attention, blinks, is screened or for whatever reason is looking away. That's why technology is needed. And the time to introduce it was yesterday. Blatter has some explaining to do."[19]

Carlos Tevez scored from an offside position from within the Mexican penalty box when the game stood at 0–0. Although against FIFA's ruling, the big screens inside Soccer City showed replays of Tevez more than a yard offside when Lionel Messi played the ball towards him. The goal stood, causing uproar and protests from the Mexican players. Referee Roberto Rosetti stuck with his decision. Argentina subsequently won the match 3–1.[17] Following the Argentinian goal, BBC commentators wrote that "linesman Stefano Ayroldi [...] somehow allowed Carlos Tevez's goal to stand before a ridiculous situation developed where he, referee Roberto Rosetti and everyone in the stadium watched replays on the huge screens show exactly how far offside Tevez was"; pundit Alan Hansen added: "Before today I was not an advocate of technology in football, but now I am a convert."[18] Associated Press sports columnist John Leicester reacted to match between England and Germany by writing:

. goal-line technology showed the ball had indeed crossed the goal-line. This incident reignited demands for [16] and photographic evidence[15]

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