Blatter demands FA meeting over Beckham's 'deliberate' booking

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Sepp Blatter, the head of football's world governing body, is to seek a meeting with the chairman of the Football Association to discuss David Beckham's admission that he deliberately got himself booked in England's World Cup qualifying match against Wales on Saturday.

Sepp Blatter, the head of football's world governing body, is to seek a meeting with the chairman of the Football Association to discuss David Beckham's admission that he deliberately got himself booked in England's World Cup qualifying match against Wales on Saturday.

The Fifa president, here for England's next qualifying match tonight against Azerbaijan, said: "It's disappointing because it is not the behaviour that befits an ambassador of football and fair play. Beckham is a role model for footballers everywhere. I will be having a word with Geoff Thompson of the FA about the situation while I am here in Baku. After that it is not up to Fifa."

Beckham suffered a hairline fracture of a rib when he fouled Ben Thatcher towards the end of Saturday's match at Old Trafford. He then committed a second foul on the Wales defender and was shown a yellow card. As it was his second caution of the qualifying campaign, Beckham was automatically suspended from tonight's match. Under Fifa rules, unlike in domestic football, there is no "totting up" procedure where future bans become lengthier for amassing large numbers of yellow cards.

"I am sure some people think that I have not got the brains to be that clever, but I do have the brains," Beckham said in an interview published yesterday. "I could feel the injury. So I fouled Thatcher. It was deliberate. I knew straight away I had broken my ribs. I have done it before. I knew I will be out for a few weeks, so I thought: 'Let's get the yellow card out of the way'."

The FA has not yet decided how to react to Beckham's admission. Sven Goran Eriksson, the England coach, refused to comment yesterday, saying that he wanted to concentrate on tonight's game. He said that he had to speak to Beckham first. "I think that's fair," he said. "You have to understand that. I tried to talk to him today and I left him a message."

Adrian Bevington, an FA spokesman, said: "We have taken the view that we will wait for Sven to speak with David before we have any further discussions on the subject. In the same way that Sven is choosing to concentrate on the game we believe that as an organisation we should all concentrate on tomorrow night's game. Anything that needs to be discussed should take place from Thursday onwards."

Earlier in the day a spokesman for Fifa said: "We do not comment on statements made in the media. We would not take any action on the basis of such statements. The situation might change if we received a formal complaint, by a national association through official channels, for example. But that has not happened so far."

A scenario in which another country might complain would be if they felt that Beckham's action was not in the spirit of the disciplinary rules and gave England an unfair advantage. If Beckham had not been suspended from tonight's game, he might have picked up another caution later in the qualifying tournament and missed a subsequent game.

Neither the Northern Irish nor the Welsh FAs plan to make any such complaint. Some Wales players said privately that they thought Beckham's actions might have provoked Thatcher to retaliate and land himself in trouble, but Mark Hughes, the Wales coach, said yesterday: "There was no malice in the challenge. I don't think it is something that we should get too upset about."

There will be others in the game, including some within the FA, who will echo Blatter's view that Beckham's conduct was not becoming of an England captain. Sir Geoff Hurst, England's 1966 World Cup hero, here for tonight's game, said: "It saddens me. You could argue, of course, that if Fifa have seen that, they might think it's bringing the game into disrepute. I would argue that it brings the country into disrepute."

Eriksson said after Saturday's game, before he knew how hurt Beckham was, that if his captain was injured and unavailable for tonight's match "it's a good place to clean yellow cards". He said yesterday that such incidents "have always happened in football, whether we condemn it or not". Asked whether he had disciplined players in the past, Eriksson said: "Of course I have. I've sent players home. I've sold players. I've fined players."

He added: "I have managed many famous footballers in the past, but I don't think hardly any manager in the world has had a player in his team as famous as David Beckham. He must be the most famous football player ever - Maradona maybe, Pele maybe. He is what he is."

He added: "It's very good sometimes, because it takes the pressure off a lot of other players, sometimes even the manager."

Michael Owen, England captain for tonight's game, was reluctant to comment, but said: "In some areas of the game, pros try to bend rules and that has been going on since day one. In a way we can breathe a sigh of relief for future games, if a positive can be taken out of it."

It is not the first time Beckham has deliberately got himself booked to expunge his disciplinary record at a time which suited him, having done so in a Champions' League match for Real Madrid last season.

While there is no suggestion that Beckham set out to injure Thatcher - the England captain went out of his way to shake his hand when he was substituted - there was clearly a risk that he could have been hurt. Indeed, in his first challenge on Thatcher Beckham suffered his broken rib. Critics might also point out that if he wanted to get booked he could have done so by kicking the ball away at a free-kick or deliberately wasting time. The fact that he publicly admitted his reasons - and said he thought his actions were clever - might also not go down well in some quarters.

The FA has taken disciplinary action in the past on players who have deliberately set out to injure opponents. Most famously, Roy Keane was banned for five matches and fined £150,000 two years ago after admitting in his autobiography that he had set out to injure Manchester City's Alf-Inge Haaland in revenge for an earlier clash between the two.

Gillingham's Iwan Roberts was banned for three games and fined £2,500 only last month for admitting in his autobiography that, while playing for Norwich City, he had set out deliberately to hurt Kevin Muscat, who was then playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers. After receiving the punishment Roberts said he would appeal.

THE CAPTAIN'S LOGIC

It was deliberate. I am sure some people think that I have not got the brains to be that clever, but I do have the brains. I could feel the injury. So I fouled Thatcher. It was deliberate. I knew straight away I had broken my ribs. I have done it before. I knew I will be out for a few weeks, so I thought: "Let's get the yellow card out of the way." The frustrating thing about the situation is that I have been playing well for Real and back scoring for England. I had stayed away from any trouble in the game and was doing well and then got injured. Thatcher fouled me. I respect him as a player and for his aggressive side. He is strong. But I have watched the video again and he doesn't look at the ball when he comes in at me. But these things happen. I don't have a problem with Thatcher.

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