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   June 23, 2002 | 1750 IST


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Heated refereeing row dogs finals

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Heated arguments about the standard of refereeing at the World Cup plagued soccer's governing body FIFA on Sunday as the tournament prepared to enter its decisive phase.

Spain were enraged by Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour's decision to disallow two "goals" in Saturday's quarter-final defeat by co-hosts South Korea. Like Korea's second-round victims Italy, the Spanish blamed their exit on the match officials.

FIFA admitted that "major" refereeing mistakes had been made at the finals but dismissed ideas that football should use video replays to help referees and linesmen.

The controversy is causing bitterness between FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the referees, however, as they prepare for the semi-finals. Germany play South Korea in Seoul on Tuesday before Wednesday's clash between Brazil and Turkey in Saitama, Japan.

FIFA dismissed out of hand allegations by Spanish and Italian fans that their games may have been fixed.

But, quoting Turkey's Senes Erzik, the chairman of FIFA's referees' committee, spokesman Keith Cooper said: "There have been one or two major mistakes which are cause for concern.

Spain's coach Jose Antonio Camacho leads Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour off the pitch "The referees have been very well prepared. (But) Referees are only human and errors can never be entirely discounted. Emotions have bubbled over which is understandable.

"Conspiracy theories crop up in all walks of life and in 99 percent of cases they are unfounded. This one is one of the 99 percent."


Cooper said FIFA had received a large number of e-mails from angry Spanish fans after the controversial quarter-final in Kwangju. Frustrated Italians sent the governing body 400,000 irate messages in one night after their second-round exit.

Germany are already getting pyschologically ready to deal with refereeing errors when they meet the Koreans.

"We may have one or two refereeing decisions against us," said Germany captain and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

"That's normal. It's called home advantage. If it happens, we must not let it demoralise us. If we have a goal disallowed, we must concentrate on scoring another one."

Spain had a goal that looked perfectly valid from a television replay disallowed by the referee when they were eliminated by the co-hosts after a penalty shootout.

But Cooper said football was not considering following sports such as rugby and cricket which allow a fourth official off the field to use television replays to help the referee make rulings on difficult decisions.

"That is not on the agenda," Cooper said.


Blatter has infuriated referees by taking the unusual step of attacking their performances in media interviews.

He called the linesmen "a disaster" and said FIFA needed to introduce a system where officials would be appointed according to their ability -- not their nationality.

FIFA sources said referees had been angered by Blatter's comments, especially since the FIFA president, who has always kept a close eye on refereeing, led a campaign to make sure officials from all over the world were used.

The sources said the referees' committee advocates using the best referees even if that means they come from a smaller number of countries. Its members are frustrated that Blatter made his public attacks without bothering to attend a referees' meeting.

The committee was due to meet later on Sunday to decide on the officials for the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, FIFA confirmed that Brazil forward Ronaldinho, who was sent off in Friday's 2-1 quarter-final win over England, would be suspended for just one game, making him available for the final on June 30 in Yokohama if Brazil beat the Turks on Wednesday.

Germany midfielder Dietmar Hamann remained a doubtful starter for Tuesday's semi-final, however, because of a knee injury.

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