The World Cup is not without its gamesmanship, both on the pitch and in the media, so perhaps the placement of this story by Dominic Fifield of The Guardian is nothing more than a pre-emptive excuse should England lose its first match to the United States. There's little chance the U.S. should win, at least according to the FIFA rankings and general thoughts in international football circles, so if they do win, it will most assuredly be due to bogus officiating.
In the case of most media-driven World Cup conspiracy theories, smoke is little more than just smoke. In this particular case, however, there's an awful large fire at the feet of Brazilian referee Carlos Eugenio Simon.
Simon has been an official during the last two World Cup tournaments, but the Brazilian official has come under much scrutiny in the last year, leading to a suspension by the Brazilian football confederation after a "build-up of perceived errors." Those "errors" led the president of Brazilian club Palmeiras, Luiz Gonzaga Belluzzo, to call Simon, "a crook, a scoundrel and a shameless bastard."
â‡¥â‡¥"He's a crook, a scoundrel ... just a shameless bastard," Belluzzo said at the time. "He must be in someone's pocket. If I met him in the street, I would slap him. What he did was unbelievable and he was helping Fluminense. He should be driven out of football."
There has been more than one occasion in the Brazilian league that caught the ire of clubs, including a foul that should have resulted in a penalty shot in a match between Flamengo and Cruzeiro. Instead, Simon called it a dive, sending off the forward (who was actually fouled) with a red card. Flamengo – the squad that should have been awarded the penalty – lost 1-0 and lost a place in the following season's Copa Liberatores. Officials for Flamengo were so upset they sent a letter and DVD of the play to FIFA, demanding the referee be dropped from the World Cup stable.
Of course, suggesting a referee be kept out of the World Cup "for the sake of good order and for the good of the game," as the letter that accompanied their DVD to FIFA reportedly stated, is far less damning than a club president suggesting the referee was in someone's pocket.
Remember, just last month the president of the England World Cup Bid Committee resigned amid an investigation into his comments that certain referees may be bribed, so this is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. And then there's the case to be made that Simon isn't on the take, nor was he ever on the take. He may just be a bad referee.
Alas, he's the man in charge of the U.S. and England. It will be very interesting to see how he calls this match, especially with the USMNT's propensity for fouls from the back line. We could know early if the fix is actually in, or if this is just a lot of World Cup smoke.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.