I bumped into an old friend and a senior football colleague a day ago in the most unlikely of places. An international football mogul, based out in the Middle East, and he turns up in a shopping mall in a small village in England, in 4 degrees weather – wet and cloudy and gloomy as English weather goes in February.
And there he was….shopping. Anyway he saw me, I saw him and we had a big ‘long time no see’ hug. It was as much a surprise as a pleasure to see him. I hope he felt the same way.
‘What brings you to these parts?’ I ask him. And he tells me that he was on his way to attending the 134th IFAB Annual General Meeting in Belfast.
IFAB is the official law making body in football. The full meaning is International Football Association Board, and every rule in football – from simple handball and freekick awards, to offside rules and all the way to the famed VAR – are, and have been drawn up by this Board for years on end.
IFAB was founded in 1886 to agree ‘standardised laws of the game of football internationally’. It is made of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and FIFA.
My friend is in Belfast now, as one of the representatives of FIFA in this meeting.
Obviously, anyone who is following the game of football will agree that there is indeed a lot to discuss in Belfast this weekend. I mean, VAR – yes, Video Assistant Refereeing – which some might call Video Assistant Confusion in football; this should be high on the agenda of this meeting.
This menace really does need sorting out. Technology is good if it is to get things right, but is it, at the moment? Lets see what they come up with from Belfast.
Let me get back to my chance meeting with this friend of mine; who told me he was en route to Belfast and just stopped in England for a few days. It was a comment he passed that I want to base my talk on today.
He said ‘I am so looking forward to going for this meeting where we can, for once, talk about that thing that brought us all together in the first place – football – and leave the politics’.
I was impressed and surprised as he has always been one I regard as a ‘mover and shaker’ in the politics of world football, and for him to have sounded fed up of it, and wanting to now focus on discussing the game, was quite refreshing.
Brings me to wonder – in all that we do, how much time do we dedicate to that which is important in our lives, and how much do we focus on the irrelevant bits, the personal exchanges, the politics, and all things that hinder growth and progress?
I have been in the game of football. I have seen development in places and regression in others. And I have seen the impact of politics on these.
How can we have leaders in our game, who will leave out issues of concern, issues of development of our game, and concentrate more on ‘oh….he didn’t vote with me when we raised this issue in Congress’ or ‘he’s a candidate who never supported me and although I know he will do a good job, we can’t support him because he is not on our side’ or ‘he said this, did this and we don’t agree with him so he must be banned from football’. A huge glut of negative energy while positive things are there that need be tackled and we don’t!
We have it everywhere. We look at individuals; we form our opinion about them. We are prejudiced, and for that reason, we do not see the good in them. We favour some, liking their person and close our eyes to their ability in what we want them to be.
The overall effect is that there are many square pegs in round holes, and we are never able to grow whatever product we need to grow.
Development is stilted by pettiness, by bias, by prejudice. We tend to leave that which is important and focus on the not-so-relevant to the detriment of the good we can do for ourselves, for the industry we work in and for the legacy we could create for those coming behind.
And that is the crux of my message this weekend.
As we await good, positive, progressive news from IFAB in Belfast, we also want to remind ourselves of that which is important to us. We want to always drive ourselves towards positivity and progress, and pay less attention to the insignificant issue of personal prejudice and differences. We will achieve so much more.
For me, I just hope these big guys in Belfast will do me one favour for now – sort VAR out!!!