During last month’s international break the Swiss national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld flew in the face of officialdom when he gave the referee “the bird” after his team’s 1-1 draw with Norway in a World Cup qualifier.
The penalty he received after the game, (which ironically was probably because his team didn’t receive one during it) from FIFA’s disciplinary committee was a two-game ban and $7195 fine.
To suggest this punishment to the man they call “der General” is exorbitant I think would be an understatement. After all he could have been signalling the amount of time added-on to his team or suggesting how many strikers he wanted to play up front.
Hitzfeld denied his middle finger was directed at anyone in particular. Unfortunately for the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich boss, there was no need for the Spanish referee to hold an inquisition, as his not so subtle gesture was caught on camera and broadcast around the world via social media.
As such, the German will be hoping his salutation doesn’t mean he has waved goodbye to Switzerland’s chances of World Cup qualification, as he serves his touchline ban for breaching FIFA’s “disciplinary code”.
While Hitzfeld gesture would be better suited to the latest Wild Turkey marketing campaign (give ‘em the bird) than the football field, the fact that his absence could now jeopardise his team’s World Cup qualification seems a high price to pay. Surely a fine and an apology, maybe even a suspended ban would have sufficed. However FIFA, who always have their finger on the pulse, have deemed it necessary to deter such monumental displays of indignation in future.
The Draconian nature of the punishment leads me to question when did giving the one-finger salute become such an obscene act? After all, it’s not like he head-butted someone in the chest!
The origins of “the finger” can apparently be traced back to Ancient Greek times, during which it was a symbol meant to degrade and intimidate. Fair play to the Greeks I say, they invented democracy, the Olympics and can even take credit for this flippant gesture.
As we pass through the ages, medieval legend has it that French soldiers cut off the middle fingers of English archers in the Battle of Agincourt. This was to prevent them from using the English longbow, which required the middle finger to operate.
In an act of defiance, the English soldiers supposedly made the gesture with their middle fingers towards the French. I bet they would have been football fans too!
In more recent times, former American President George Bush had to be given the benefit of the doubt when he got his “peace sign” round the wrong way to a group of Aussie farmers. Let’s just say GW was lucky the farmers didn’t call for the DRS, then again the once leader of the free world did make a habit of confusing his peace signs.
As far as Mr Hitzfeld goes, I think he can count (on one-finger if you will) himself extremely unlucky to be punished so severely. For a man who has represented his country as a player and managed teams to 18 titles, I think he deserved a little more respect. But I guess so too did the referee.
They say a picture tells a thousand words, well I think the same can be said of “the bird”, but maybe in this instance two-words would have sufficed.