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   June 5, 2002 | 1345 IST



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Free kick expertise led to clampdown

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John Mehaffey

Increased expertise with free kicks up to 30 metres from goal is a key factor behind the FIFA clampdown on player theatrics which resulted in a fine for Brazil's Rivaldo on Wednesday.

Rivaldo, a former world player of the year, was fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($6,390) for collapsing and clutching his face after a ball kicked by Turkey's Hakan Unsal hit him in the legs in Monday's World Cup group match.

The world governing body has instructed referees to act swiftly against players who throw themselves dramatically to the ground in an attempt to claim a penalty or a free kick when they know they have not been fouled.

"More of the world's players, and especially coaches, train to cheat the referees with simulated fouls," said referees' committee member Volker Roth of Germany.

Rivaldo pretends to be injured in the match against Turkey"They try to simulate fouls because now players are able to score with a free kick from 25 metres. This has been happening in the last one to 1- years."

Italy's Pierluigi Collina, named the best referee in the world for the fourth time last January, said policing the divers among the 32 teams at the month-long finals was the most challenging task facing the 36 World Cup referees.

"We cannot continue to have such behaviour on the field, not only towards the referee but also towards the opponent because it's not fair to win a match only because of diving or a penalty got by simulation," he said. "It is very, very bad behaviour."


Danish referee Kim Nielsen added: "We have so many free kick experts in football today -- (Roberto) Carlos from Brazil, (David) Beckham from England. Winning a free kick can be very important."

The world governing body FIFA gave referees the authority three years ago to award yellow cards for diving and this year will automatically video-review every decision for that particular offence after each World Cup match.

Roth concedes that the viewer at home gets the chance to see endless replays of controversial decisions while the referee must make an instant decision.

"We don't blame the referee at all," he said. "They can make a mistake."

Poll said all a referee could do was his best in every situation. "You haven't got time to think," he said. "You act in the best way."


Other sports, notably both of the rugby codes and cricket, have introduced off-field referees who can make decisions based on as many video replays as they need.

Poll said he was not worried that viewers might get a better view than him.

"We deal very much with what we have now," he said. "I am happy with the tools we have now. Replays are not foolproof.

"Sometimes watching something again and again on the television doesn't give you that feel, the intensity of the incident or the intention of the player."

U.S. referee Brian Hall said his task resembled theatre criticism.

"The first thing they do is roll over and look to see what the referee is doing because the actors want to confirm whether their acting job was good enough," he said.

"They glance over their shoulder while rolling on the ground to see 'did I sucker him into making a false decision?"

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