The Gordon Igesund Column
20th March 1999

Duplicated courtesy of The Mercury (Natal Newspapers)

Much has been said and written recently about changes that the world controlling body, FIFA, wants to introduce. And those of you, who have been reading this column regularly, will remember that I have written about some of these changes previously.

For one, FIFA, has suggested that all its member associations stream-line their local leagues to ensure that they run along a calender year. This uniformity world wide will hopefully bring an end to fixture congestion and - just as importantly - an end to the problems of securing the release of international players.

Hopefully, FIFA, is also talking about an international calender which ensures that national teams throught the world play on the same day. This would also ensure that players are released for international duty. The world has practically grown into one huge country today and there is so much to-and-fro between individual states, that it is obvious that more professional players will play for clubs outside their own associations.

Another point raised by the world body, is the possibility of introducing a 'pay-to-play' system whereby national associations take over the payment of the salaries for players that are called up for national duty. With respect, I think that that idea is very anti-Africa and the Third World. How do you expect an African country to pay R200 000 (which is what some of the players earn per week in Europe) just to have their national players released. If clubs really want to push for compensation , then I think that the national associations in Africa and the Third World should be pushing for compensation too.

Take for instance, Lucas Radebe. He joined Leeds United for R2-million, he is now valued at much more like R30-million. Leeds got him so cheaply because he is from Africa. So my argument is that if he is sold, then surely Leeds should play some of that to the people who developed him as footballer - be it the association, the club, or whomever else. Only if that happens would it make sense to demand that clubs are paid compensation for time spent with the national team.

African countries are already losing some of their best players to Europe and countries there are putting pressure on these players to make themselves available for international selection. France for instance, had several players in their World Cup winning squad who were not born in France. These countries would be further penalised if they now have to pay for the release of players wo have not opted to play for a European country.

Matches with two referees is another issue that has been tabled. And I, for one, certainly believe that is something which should be tested. There is nothing wrong with looking into this, as it could quite easily eradicate some of the off-the-ball incidents which have become a menace to the game. FIFA has done well in the past with testing some of the new laws and changes to the game - like the back pass rule - in youth competitions. I certainly think the association would do well to test the idea of having two referees.