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Around the Forums – The post of ineligibility

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A couple of months ago I undertook to, once a month, read the Northern League Forum and it’s moderately more civilised cousin Yellow Fever, sift through the bile, and summarise the interesting stuff for your reading pleasure. It’s now time for episode three! But this time, I have decided to try something slightly different.

Instead of bringing you a cross section of the good, bad, ugly and bizarre comments from across the threads of our country’s two major football forums, I thought I would tackle one big issue. And right now there is no issue bigger in New Zealand football (big ‘F’ as well as small ‘f’) than the Deklan Wynn (and now it appears a few others) eligibility saga.

This is one of those stories, like the Kennedy assassination or September 11, where I suspect all kiwi football fans will remember where they were when they heard the news. Or maybe that’s just me because I’m a bit sad? Anyway I was at McFetridge Park, glancing at my iPhone while I waited for a game to start, when I saw the story break. New Zealand had been disqualified from the Olympic qualifiers for fielding an ineligible player.

Then, throughout the game, I had a look every ten minutes or so as the Twitteristi oscillated from blaming Anthony Hudson, to blaming New Zealand Football, to blaming the Oceania Football Confederation, to blaming Sepp Blatter, to blaming all of the above, rinse and repeat. The only thing we all agreed on was that someone needed to be shipped off to The Hague for this crime against humanity!

And so it was on the forums.

On Yellow Fever, as of lunch time today, there were 1,685 comments on this subject across 84 pages on the ‘New Zealand U-23s (The thread of ineligibility)’ thread – and it was growing by the minute even then! It will be multiplying like aphids now, I’m sure. Over the past 24 hours I have sifted through 37 pages containing 738 comments before I couldn’t take it anymore. I barely scratched the surface and in all that I only covered three days – July 12, 13 and 14. I think it’s a pretty good snapshot none the less.

With things like this, I always find it amusing to start at the point where the story broke and observe people’s real time reactions as they find out about things as they happened. In this case, it was ‘Royz’ who gets the immortal first quote:

“New Zealand kicked out of Finial? WTF???????????????”

First reaction was from ‘CactusJones’:

“Is this real?”

‘Fraid so, and it only took three comments for the blame game to start. ‘valeo’:

“Yep NZF strikes again.”

But ‘DKP22’ had a different target in mind…

“I know NZF have a history of this sort of administration “ahem” error. But I would give them the benefit of the doubt until the challenge process has gone through its course. As someone mentioned earlier, it would be very unlikely Wynne would have been eligible to participate in the FIFA U20 World Cup had due diligence not been done. I have far more faith in NZF than OFC in terms of administration.”

‘Colvinator’ was very clear on who he saw as the culprits:

“Remembered when I saw these eligibility rules quoted, in 2013 on here when Durante’s eligibility was questioned, for different reasons, but under same set of rules. So you’d think NZF would be very familiar with them. You’d think Hudson would be very familiar with rules given his worldwide search for eligible players (which isn’t to be blamed for this, but would indicate him hopefully knowing what the rules are.)

So the question is, WTF GUYS????”

All online forums have different personality types that we can all identify. Here, ‘accrington stanley’ appears to fall firmly into the category of Tinfoilium Hatweareris:

“As I understand it all the NZ players are elegible to play in the Olympic qualifiers. This is not in doubt and they have played under these rules. However, last night a secret meeting was held between the Island nations (NZ not invited) and they decided to CHANGE the rules and specify that all players had to meet Pacific games criteria which is slightly different to the Olympics! For the Pacific games you have to be a citizen for at least 5 years and on that basis they decided that Wynne was not elegible and booted NZ out.

The semi final against Vanuatu was an Olympic semi and had nothing to do with the Pacific games. So basically they are a bunch of crooks and cheats.”

Someone to blame FIFA and call for NZF to leave Oceania for Asia in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… ‘Lonegunmen’:

“If there is truth in this it smells of typical FIFA incompetency that they allow Island nations to pull this sort of stunt. Football in Oceania sucks at best anyway and frankly, it offers nothing to the world game imo. The sooner we join the Asian confederation, the better. It is not perfect but there are enough heavy hitter nations involved to keep it more honest.”

‘ConanTroutman’s tack in the discussion was quickly established as ‘Mr Common Sense Guy’:

“If Wynne is ineligible and it just wasn’t picked up earlier then we can’t exactly blame OFC, regardless of what’s gone on behind the scenes. It’s not OFC’s job to make sure our players are eligible before they take the field.”

But ‘YoungHeart’ wasn’t going to accept any of that kind of boring nonsense:

“What I don’t get about this is that we are the big fish in this crap tank that is the Oceania Football Confederation, why are we not throwing our weight around more?

If they want to play silly buggers in order to get more international exposure, then that’s fine. We should move to the AFC, and leave this cesspool that is the OFC to fold and/or become cannon fodder for preliminary WQC through the Asian Confederation.”

YEAH! Because the AFC never gets accused of corruption…

‘james dean’ had a message for all the sensible types. You’re either with the conspiracy theorists, or you’re with the CIA led plot to fake the moon landing:

“Anyone not suspecting foul play is incredibly naive. Why have OFC not released any info or a written explanation until after the final? Complete bollocks.”

So to summarise our story so far, it’s all the OFC’s fault. ‘Lonegunmen’ put it most succinctly when he said:

“One thing is for sure and that is out of this the Oceania Confederation continues to make itself look like a 3rd world backwater that it is  and a laughing stock not to be taken seriously. It does not deserve direct entry into any World Cup finals.”

Which brings us to this month’s… Drumroll please… ‘Whatever!’ award!! The regular prize that goes to the comment that makes you roll your eyes more than any other.

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I think this one is like the 1970 World Cup. ‘Son of a Don’ gets to keep the trophy forever.

“I want my money back. Donated funds to the Vanuatu Cyclone Appeal (and I think the Government put in a million or two).The Island nations have connived with this?!? And I’m sorry Roy but if Fiji was also involved in some secret meeting we really need to revisit that connection too. I want my money back.”

So let me get this straight, victims of a devastating tropical cyclone don’t get aid money because a football game. Wow…

I have to give the monthly ‘Bite Back’ award…

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…to the best response to the above, provided by ‘Fitzy’:

“This really is next level idiocy. Over 100,000 people were effected by that cyclone and dozens died. Anyone who suggests that we should prevent those people from rebuilding their homes because Vanuatu correctly pointed out that we’d played an ineligible player in a football game is a morally bankrupt moron. Never mind that this increasingly appears to be a cock-up of epic proportions from NZF. Honestly, this comment is disgraceful.”

Now, it was at about this time that some bright spark did a very un-forum-like thing. They actually went away and *gasp* read the applicable FIFA statutes… This led ‘james dean’ to have an epiphany:

“I am veering drastically from conspiracy to cock-up.”

Even if ‘ConanTroutman’ wasn’t entirely convinced:

“It’s an OFC conspiracy enabled by an NZF cockup”

‘SurgeQld’ was pretty unequivocal in his thorough assessment of the matter:

“If NZF had an exemption, and/or we hadn’t violated the rules (cocked up epically) then NZF would have come out in the media and said as much.

Instead, they’ve come out in the media and said they’re bunkering down with some of Smithy’s mates to do their best to find a loophole where OFC have cocked up in exposing/punishing NZF for their cock ups.

Even if they are successful, the fact remains that two cock ups do not excuse a cock up.

This is a cock up.”

But if I had an award for the most futile comment in the history of online forums, it would definitely go to ‘TV’:

“We still don’t have all the facts. Back to your day jobs ppl.”

Wait for all the facts? Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen. I think Supertramp wrote a song about this sort of thing once…

So where are we at? Basically we have three camps. There’s ‘Team Blame NZF’, epitomised by this sort of line of attack by ‘SurgeQld’:

“Who told what to who is all well and good… and having someone (Ricki, Frank, or even a small island nation) to throw stones at may make some feel better. The fact remains it was NZF’s responsibility to dot i’s, cross t’s, and attain all the relevant exemptions/approvals (be they from FIFA and/or OFC and/or IOC).

They failed – and someone needs to be accountable. This is for Olympic qualification… not just a tin-pot OFC competition (or, the Pac Games), NZF had to be 100% sure every single duck was in a row.

Evidently, they didn’t. They failed the players. They failed us.”

When all this is over and someone writes a Broadway musical about it, that last line will almost certainly be in the lyrics of the finale.

Meanwhile, ‘accrington stanley’ was the leader of ‘Team I Really Want This To Be All OFC’s Fault But I’m Running Out Of Sane Arguments’:

“You’re assuming they failed but did they? Or are we at the mercy of OFC interpreting the rules in a different way to suit themselves! I suppose the ‘appeal’ to fifa or whoever will shed some light on the matter. I think we should save the mud slinging until it has been decided one way or the other.”

‘Napier Phoenix’, on the other hand, was leading the charge for ‘Team Who Says We Have To Have Sane Arguments Around Here That’s Never Been A Thing Before?’

“I personally would back NZF over any of the shonky goings on associated with OFC. That organisation is run by tin pot, crooked, petty criminals and that has been confirmed several times. It is these same people that have kept the likes of Blatter in power because he was feathering their nests and keeping them wealthy while their members had to play in bare feet and donated uniforms. We have been set up and some of you should be ashamed that you have put any trust in them at all over this. Instead of questioning our integrity and competence look at the facts: or do you think this tournament and its format is the right way to select a team for the Olympics? Do you think it is fair to have a secret trial without the aggrieved party there to put their case? Do you think it’s fair to say your team is ok and all eligible, then pull the rug out from under you on the eve of the final you have beaten everyone to play in on the grounds that the information given by you is wrong. The whole thing goes against natural justice. While we can recognise this is always possible with 3rd world countries, we should NEVER accept it as being ok.”

It was at this point that I think ‘SurgeQld’ spoke for everyone when he said:

“My head hurts.”

But if you still want to try and judge for yourself, I’ll leave you with this explanatory comment from ‘el grapadura’ who summarises the statutes governing the situation, which you can read here on pages 63-65.

“This is how it goes:

Section 5 – General principle of who can play international football. The key issue is permanent nationality – this is the nationality that you hold permanently (i.e. from birth). For Deklan’s purposes, his permanent nationality is South African.

Sections 6,7, and 8 provide clarification to Section 5 in cases where there are potential issues in what the ‘permanent nationality’ is.

Section 6 – clarifies Section 5 in situations where a player has 2 or more ‘permanent nationalities’ (to use the term from section 5). If Deklan, for example, had a NZ parent but was born in SA, this section would apply to him. But that’s not the case, so it doesn’t.

Section 7 – clarifies Section 5 in situations where a player with 1 ‘permanent nationality’, and who had not represented that national association in international football before, wishes to switch to another nationality. This is the exact situation that Deklan’s in – he wishes to change his SA nationality (having not played for SA before) for a NZ one. This is why section 7 applies to him.

Section 8 – clarifies section 5 in situations where a player with 1 ‘permanent nationality’, and who had represented that national association in international football before, wishes to switch to another nationality. This doesn’t apply to Deklan either.

NZF, I take cash, or direct deposit.”

Categories: Around The Forums

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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