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FIFA calls emergency meeting to discuss playoffs

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called an emergency meeting of its executive committee ahead of the World Cup draw in South Africa to deal with the fallout from Thierry Henry's hand ball, violence at Algeria-Egypt games and match-fixing allegations in Europe.

FIFA said yesterday the meeting would take place Dec. 2, two days before the draw in Cape Town.

FIFA's statement did not reveal the incidents. However, there were several examples of fan violence before and after Algeria's victory over Egypt in an African playoff, plus Henry's hand ball that led to France advancing at Ireland's expense.

The committee will also discuss match-fixing and betting scams being investigated in Germany and parts of central and eastern Europe.

Algeria's two games against Egypt came 20 years after riots on and off the field marred a meeting of the two African nations and there was more trouble this time.

Crowds in Cairo hurled stones at the Algerian team's bus before a first match in Cairo on Nov. 14, injuring three players. Egypt won 2-0, forcing the playoff. And in the following days, mobs in Algeria ransacked the offices of Egyptian companies.

After Algeria won the second match 1-0 in Sudan, Egyptian newspapers unleashed stirring headlines about their fans being attacked by machete-wielding crowds - allegations never confirmed. Sudanese police said there were only a handful of injuries, none of them serious.

While the playoffs in Europe led to Portugal, Greece and Slovenia advancing to next year's World Cup in South Africa, the outcome of the France-Ireland second leg led to demands from the Irish federation for a replay after Henry's deliberate hand ball set up an equalizer for teammate William Gallas.

The hotly disputed goal led to a 1-1 draw and France advancing 2-1 on aggregate. Although the hand ball appeared clear, it was not spotted by either the referee or linesman and the goal stood.

Henry said that the fairest solution would be to replay the match. But FIFA had already issued a statement saying that the referee's decision was final, the result would not be changed and there would be no replay.

FIFA's statement on Monday said that refereeing issues would be on the agenda of the emergency meeting and that is likely to include the Henry hand ball and the decision by Swedish referee Martin Hansson to allow the goal.

The Henry incident has led to more calls for video technology to help referees make such decisions.

The outbreak of match fixing allegations in central Europe has already led to arrests in Germany and Switzerland. Authorities believe they have arrested the ring leaders of a gang suspected of manipulating games to make money on betting.

Investigators believe 200 games to have been manipulated, including three in the qualifying stages of the Champions League and 12 in the Europa League, the continent's second-tier competition.


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