Faking of injuries rife at World Cup, say Fifa referees

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It was the World Cup of Jürgen Klinsmann, of Marcello Lippi, of Zinedine Zidane, and of people rolling around in agony quite a lot without actually being hurt.

To no great surprise, but a certain amount of disquiet and disenchantment, yesterday's meeting of the Fifa referee's committee heard that most of those players who looked as if they belonged in ER, or Casualty, were really auditioning for a role in Faking It.

A staggering "58 per cent of the players who were treated on the pitch during the 2006 World Cup eventually turned out not to be injured," confirmed Fifa in a statement.

According to Professor Jiri Dvorak, Fifa's chief medical officer, there were too many players feigning injury in Germany, with tactical reasons presented as the most likely cause of their action. Where injuries were confirmed, the number per match was down to 2.3 per match, from 2.7 at the 2002 World Cup.

That amounted to a total of 145 injuries in 64 matches at the 2006 tournament, with probably the worst being the cruciate knee injury to Newcastle and England striker Michael Owen.

The figures are slightly misleading as there will be cases where a player is hurt momentarily, perhaps bruised or winded, but suffer no lasting injury. Marco Materazzi might fall into that category after being butted by Zidane. Nevertheless even with that caveat the number of players who unnecessarily held up the game is very high. Unfortunately there was no published country-by-country breakdown. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Portuguese and Italians were among the worst offenders.

The figures will add weight to those who support football adopting the rugby league practice of treating players on the pitch while the action continues. This is unlikely but all manner of developments could occur should Michel Platini, a noted innovator, succeed in his campaign to become the next Uefa president.

* A Swiss investigation into Fifa's rule that clubs must release players for international games was suspended yesterday pending a judgment by the European Court of Justice into the case involving Charleroi, who want compensation from Fifa because their midfielder Abdelmajid Oulmers was ruled out for eight months after being injured playing for Morocco in 2004.