Woo-hoo! Soccer’s top man has admitted we wuz robbed in Germany, so we’re all heading back to Kaiserslautern to have another go. We’ll take up where we left off against those diving, cheating Italians – 11 men against ten, heading into extra time – and surely this time around we’ll get through, then knock off Ukraine and then face the hastily reassembled Germans for a place in the final. Just think of it – the Socceroos could be in the 2006 World Cup final!

Wait a minute … what’s that? Oh. Damn. Looks like they’re not going to replay the game after all. Our crushing 1-0 result still stands. We’re still not going to get to a quarter-final.

That being the case, what, exactly, do Australian soccer fans take from Sepp Blatter’s apology yesterday on SBS? Not a whole lot, really.

Some might take a modicum of comfort from knowing that FIFA’s head honcho agrees we were harshly done by, and deserved to be in the quarter-finals. Others might be a tad suspicious of Mr Blatter’s motives, and wonder just why he’s trying to curry some belated favour with football in this part of the world.

The bottom line is his comments and apology change nothing. But look elsewhere in his interview and football fans might see something to give them cause for optimism for the future.

Blatter acknowledged that there was “too much cheating” from players at this year’s World Cup, and that the referees “were not at their best”.

While both of those statements would appear to fall very clearly into the “bleedingly obvious” category to most who watched the tournament, the fact that they’ve become even vaguely apparent to the most powerful man in football is no small thing. Because football needs to rid itself of the faking and diving that marked the World Cup, and the only way that will happen is when FIFA wants it to happen. Blatter’s comments at the weekend suggest that time might be approaching more quickly than we’d thought.

Peter Fray

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