Early Doors

Video refs long overdue

Early Doors

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Football's pig-headed refusal to embrace video technology was
shown up yet again amid a farcical mix-up in
Fulham's game against Roma last night.

It's good enough for cricket, tennis, both forms of
rugby and anything American, but apparently the world's
most popular and lucrative sport just doesn't
trust TV.

It also worships fire, believes
the world is flat and maintains that mankind evolved not from
apes, but from slightly older men with beards and hats.

Referee Paul
Allaerts was guilty of an almighty balls-up late in the game when John Arne
Riise tumbled in the Fulham box; he awarded a penalty to Roma and attempted to send off
Brede Hangeland for a last-man foul.

Early Doors was
at Craven Cottage and, even though its vision and judgement had been somewhat impaired
by the cheap contents of an even cheaper hip flask (three for a quid at
Poundland), it could very easily tell from its vantage point some 60 metres
away that the foul was not committed by Hangeland.

You see, the
Norwegian is blond, approximately nine feet tall and - were he not recognisable
enough - scored the opening goal. The real culprit, Stephen Kelly, is significantly darker, significantly shorter,
and had spent the game busying himself in his role as the poor man's John Pantsil.

Even less
forgivably, the case of mistaken identity took place despite the presence of an
extra referee behind each goal (the fifth and sixth officials, ED thinks, although it is starting to lose count).

In an exciting
innovation to make the Europa League seem fresh and relevant, Johan Verbist and
his fellow 'additional assistant referee'
Peter Vervecken had spent the previous 76 minutes shuffling along just behind the
byline looking rather forlorn, without so much as a flag to wave.

After more than an hour of
complete redundancy, Verbist suddenly had a job to do - identify the player 10
yards in front of him - and he failed spectacularly.

If the bungling
Belgians had seen Hangeland at the scene of the crime, it is probably because he
was coming across to make a covering tackle.

Hence, it was possibly
not a penalty, certainly not a red card, and absolutely positively not
Hangeland who committed the crime.

If all of this
was obvious to a sozzled ED, it wouldn't
have taken long to check the action replay - probably less time than was wasted
as the home side successfully begged Allaerts to send off Kelly instead of their
best player.

Based on last
night's performance, if ED had been
Fulham it would have nominated Diomansy Kamara to get his marching orders.

UEFA would
probably say the problem was incompetent refereeing, not the system - judging
by ED's ham-fisted attempts to
rewind the action on its Sky Plus box, a sufficiently idiotic official could
probably cock up a video review.

But does Michel Platini
genuinely think the present system is a better solution than getting a video
ref to spend 10 seconds looking at a replay? ED certainly doesn't.

- - -

Forget the
barbers or a late-night chemist; Spaniards seeking something for the weekend
should head for Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza art museum.

The museum shop
is selling a range of condoms featuring artwork from its 'Tears
of Eros' exhibition, whose star
attraction is that rather creepy video of David Beckham sleeping taken by Sam

Thus Becks's slumbering features adorn contraceptive packets -
appropriately enough in the city where his work on the football pitch was
comprehensively overshadowed by those alleged extra-curricular activities.

It is not the
first time Beckham has been used to help people, er, score.

Last year his
name was used to promote China's best-selling condom brand, although they
absent-mindedly forgot to ask the England midfielder if he minded. He

In 2006, Michael
Ballack and Oliver Kahn demanded damages from a German company that launched
erotic toys called Michael B and Olli K to coincide with the World Cup.

Over in Brazil, where
people are less uptight, they have been selling condoms bearing top teams' logos since 2002 - and advertised them with a
bizarre TV spot featuring fans with giant condoms on their heads.

- - -

INJURY OF THE DAY: Michael Owen is out for the rest of the season with knee
ligament damage. No surprises there. Thing is, it's
the Saracens and Wales number eight, not the damaged goods currently parading
around Old Trafford.

FOREIGN VIEW: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talked energy
and football with his Italian and Turkish counterparts, whose countries are the
top buyers of Russian gas, underscoring strengthened ties among the trio.

"Tayyip, I send you my love and hope
that when you start speaking, you will congratulate me on Milan's victory over Real Madrid yesterday," Italy's
Silvio Berlusconi told Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan, according to a transcript
published on the Russian government's

In his turn, Putin thanked Erdogan for a goal
scored by Turkish midfielder Gokdeniz Karadeniz that sealed the victory for
Russian team Rubin Kazan over Barcelona
in the Champions League.

Putin said: "Barcelona is a very respected club. In Russia there
are many fans who love this team. But this is a sport. Our team Rubin was
stronger this time. I repeat once again, thanks to efforts by a Turkish player."

"I congratulate you once more but I will
have to work a little bit on the Spanish Prime Minister," quipped Berlusconi.

"He has nothing to be upset about," Putin said.

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