So Arsenal get Bayern Munich in the knock-out stages of the Champions League for the second year running and Manchester City are drawn against Spanish giants Barcelona. That ensures that the best two teams in England, on current Premiership form at least, will face arguably the top two sides in Europe.
Back in March of this year, Ahmet Cakar, a former Turkish football referee considered one of his country’s most successful, sensationally suggested how former football stars who participate in the draw have metal objects in their hands that pick up vibrations in the balls as they bounce around the pot.
This, according to Cakar, guarantees the stars making the draw know precisely when to select each ball, and thus UEFA’s top brass get the outcome of the “random” draw that they desire.
This may all sound rather bizarre, however, Cakar recreated the exact same draw that was made for the opening elimination stage of last season’s competition using a mock-up version of his bouncing ball theory. The chance of this occurring according to bookmakers at the time is around 5,000/1, although some analysts suggest that it could be as extreme as 2,000,000/1 depending on which way one looks at it.
I am not sure if that means that one is looking at it through rose-tinted glasses or standing on one’s head whilst rubbing their tummy button with a feather duster, so I will try to look at it as impartially as possible.
What a load of rubbish, or more to the point, what a load of old balls.
Hang on a sec, in last season’s draw only two English clubs qualified for the final sixteen – they were Arsenal and Manchester United. Arsenal were then drawn against Bayern Munich, who went on to lift the trophy, and Manchester United were selected to play Real Madrid.
Both English clubs were eliminated resulting in no English Premier League sides progressing into the quarter-finals. Coincidence or just a random outcome?
Anything of odds from 5,000/1 to 2,000,000/1 is actually pretty random, so does Cakar have a point or is he just another wacky conspiracy theorist?
Conspiracy theories have indeed ranged over the years from the sublime to the ridiculous. We have had the logical reasoning that suggests that John F Kennedy was shot by more than just a lone gunman, to the arrant nonsense that Marilyn Monroe currently resides on the planet Mars alongside Princess Diana, Elvis Presley and the kidnapped racehorse Shergar.
However, if the mighty power of the interior forces of the American government can conspire to kill their own president, then it surely must be considered possible that the much less powerful forces of UEFA can conspire to rig a football tournament. Although some may well argue that UEFA has even more power than a former US administration.
Therefore it is worth looking at this particular “conspiracy theory” in a little more depth.
It is one thing to allege that English teams are being targeted out of the competition, but what if also the remaining quality teams are then being kept apart until the last possible juncture?
Using last season’s quarter final draw as an example, one can easily reach a rather disturbing conclusion. The four best sides that reached the final eight last time around were naturally Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.
There is no seeding whatsoever during this part of the draw. Were the “big four” then kept away from each other?
Such a scenario would obviously generate a larger interest on many levels. Higher media coverage, an increase in public enthusiasm, potentially more and preferable sponsorship deals and greater revenue from television rights and gate receipts?
That aforementioned quarter-final draw, random or otherwise, had Barcelona playing Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich taking on Juventus, Borussia Dortmund versus Malaga, and last and by no means least, Real Madrid were handed a tie against Galatasaray. All of the “big four” therefore somehow managed to avoid each other.
One thing is for certain, it would have taken only one of the big four teams to play against another one for there not to be argument.
So I will highlight just one further example that surprisingly gives a great deal of credence to Ahmet Cakar’s case. In the 2002 World Cup, which is of course done by FIFA and not UEFA, it is interesting to see the draw that concluded the group that England were set to participate in. Their rivals were the number one ranked team in the world at the time, Argentina, Sweden, whom England had not beaten since the days of black and white television, and Nigeria, who were the reigning African Cup of Nations finalists.
Furthermore, the game against Nigeria, a country naturally able to deal with hot and humid conditions, was arranged to be played in the hottest and the most humid venue on co-hosts Japan’s list.
All of this of course would only be considered conjecture in a court of law, so until such time as there is sufficient evidence to infer the contrary, I can only assume that UEFA and FIFA are the nicest of people that have never been involved in anything at all suspicious. Maybe I just do not have the bouncing balls to think otherwise.