Webb loved World Cup vibe

Cayman may not have had a team at
the recent World Cup in South Africa, but at least it can boast that it had a
senior official in the FIFA ranks there.

Local businessman Jeffrey Webb is
the president of the Cayman Islands Football Association and also deputy
chairman of FIFA’s Internal Audit Committee.

He went to plenty of matches during
the tournament and found the experience of the World Cup being staged on the
African continent for the first time exhilarating. 

“South Africa not only lived up to
expectations, they exceeded it,” enthuses Webb. “Tremendous hosts and
organisation, world class football and infrastructure and from FIFA’s
perspective, everything was First World in terms of organisation and the passion
of the people and the thousands of volunteers to show that Africa can do it.

“One of the greatest things was
that South Africa used the World Cup as a stepping stone to show the world that
it is not where it was only 20
years ago.

This is South Africa after
apartheid and it is mind-boggling that only in 1992 we were sitting in Zurich
lifting the ban on South Africa, and to sit here just 16 years after Nelson
Mandela was voted in as president and to see what South Africa is today and how
far it’s come, is absolutely brilliant.

“I think what football has shown is
that it is a far greater power than just a game on the field. With the legacy
programmes that FIFA and South Africa has embraced as far as the Football for
Hope and the schools they’ve built and centres across Africa, the Walk with the
SOS Children and One Goal campaign they’ve launched with Archbishop Desmond
Tutu to help every child get an education, it just shows that football has a
greater responsibility.”

If the World Cup does return to
Africa in the near future, Webb sees South Africa as a likely candidate,
although Morocco has expressed interest in staging it.

He thinks the complaints about the
loud plastic horns, aka vuvuzelas, is over-played.

The biggest issue coming out of
this tournament was when is FIFA going to introduce technology to eradicate
repeats of incidents like the Frank Lampard disallowed goal against Germany and
the offside goal awarded to Carlos Tevez.

“I personally like some of the
proposals, like the fifth and sixth referees behind the goal, and would like to
see if a chip can be put in the ball, which tells you that the ball is over the
goal line. We’ve been testing it for six or seven years but it is not 100 per
cent accurate, which is why it has not been introduced.”

Webb does not want to see action
replays introduced because it takes away the human element of the game.
Technology is a solution in the short-term, but for the long-term benefits of
the game he would like to see professional referees introduced.

“Just like players make mistakes in
the game, so do referees.

I think there needs to be a group
of professional referees. My recommendation is that we need to employ the top,
say, 50 or 60 refs around the world.

We could create two centres, one in
Europe and one in South America or the Americas.

“Professional players are training
up to six hours a day, yet refs like Howard Webb, who officiated the World Cup
final, has to work as a police officer. He is working eight or nine hours a
day, then having to work one or two hours as a referee.

“We have to get away from the fact
that we have professional players but amateur officials. In the last financial
cycle we invested $120 million around the world in referee programmes. But
these things take time.”

Won’t professional referees be more
open to bribes and corruption? “No, I don’t think so.

I think it would be less likely
because professional referees would be earning much higher than before and
their family situation would be a lot more comfortable.”

England’s showing in South Africa
was lamentable.

Webb was surprised. “I was at the
qualification game at Wembley against Croatia last year when they won 5-0.

England last September and England
in June were completely different. Like night and day. 

“I saw them play against the United
States in South Africa and they were a shadow of themselves. I think part of
that is because of the Premier League.”

He thinks there are too few England
players and they are playing far too many games. “When it comes to the World
Cup, the players were too fatigued with nagging injuries. Anyway, the English
game is not suited to win international games at the highest level.

If you look at the possession game
of Spain and Holland, it is completely different to England’s.

“Spain has a great generation of
players and their style is beautiful. The Spanish team now reminds me of France
in 1998 with Zidane, their free flowing football.”

Brazil are the next World Cup
hosts, in 2014. Apart from the Brazilians and Spain, Webb sees Germany being a
threat too, as well as Ghana.

“Ghana were one of the youngest
teams there and their oldest player was their keeper who is about 27. Gyan is
only 23 and Abedi Pele’s son, Andre Ayew, is only 20. If they’re able to keep
their players and infrastructure in place and be able to prepare, they will be
great. They were missing their leader, of course, Michael Essien. When in that
team, Essien makes a world of difference. I loved Cameroon too even though they
couldn’t score.”  


Jeffrey Webb