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Blatter Proposes Using Two Referees

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 11, 1998; Page B5




PARIS, July 10 — Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, president of soccer's world governing organization, said today he believes that using two referees instead of one in games might improve officiating.

The head of FIFA called it "perfectly useless" to have three assistant referees on the field who have no real power, as is the case now. The referee is the arbiter of all on-field rulings, and is the only person with the game clock. Two linesmen signal when the ball has gone out of bounds and when a player is offside, but their signals can be ignored by the referee. A fourth official monitors sideline administrative matters such as substitutions.

"We really have to get assistants more involved," Blatter said in a news conference. "Let's have two referees."

Blatter said he continues to oppose the use of instant replay during World Cup matches, but he advocated video replays to assess the penalties for red cards. Laurent Blanc, starting defender for France, has been suspended for Sunday's final against Brazil after he received a questionable red card in Wednesday's semifinal against Croatia.

Referee Ali Mohamed Bujsaim of the United Arab Emirates, who worked the Brazil-Netherlands semifinal, joined with Blatter in criticizing players who fake fouls.

"I know why they are diving," Blatter said. "In the past, there was a foot there to trip on. Today, there is no foot because there is no tackle from behind. But the player just lost the ball. So they dive."

In other developments, Blatter confirmed a number of logistical issues concerning the 2002 World Cup, which will be jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea. As hosts, both nations will receive automatic bids. During the first round, 16 teams in four groups will play their games in Japan and the same in South Korea.

In the second round, half of the teams will switch countries. That pattern will be maintained through the semifinals. The final will be played in Japan (probably in Yokohama), the opening game in Seoul.

Japan also will have games in Sapporo, Miyagi, Niigata, Ibaraki, Saitama, Shizuoka, Osaka, Kobe and Oita. South Korea also will have games in Inchon, Suwon, Taejon, Taegu, Chonju, Ulsan, Kwangju, Pusan and Sogwipo.

South Korea and North Korea might field a joint team, and some games may be played in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

With only 29 spots in the field available to qualifiers (the defending champion also gets an automatic bid), Blatter said it will be difficult deciding how many berths will be allocated per qualifying region.

For the 1998 cup, 15 went to Europe; five each to South America and Africa; three each to Asia, North/Central America and the Caribbean, and one to the winner of a playoff between a team from Oceania and a team from Asia.

Blatter said the continental qualifying system will be decided by the end of the year. "It will require a very diplomatic solution," he said.

As for the 2000 Olympic men's tournament, Blatter said teams again will be limited to three players age 23 or older. International Olympic Committee officials had been hoping FIFA would lift the age restriction.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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