LUKA PETRINEC / AIPS* in DUBAI: Many fans might be surprised by the size of the organisation of a World Cup: there are many people are involved behind the scenes of the competitions and the individual matches.

One of the most important segments concerns the medical operation. Their task is primarily to take care of the players, and hence the ethics of the competition.

This is carried out on the basis of four programmes overseen by FIFA.

The first focuses on player protection and starts before the kickoff of the first match in a World Cup.

“Players must pass a medical test in order to determine their health status and have a green light to play in the tournament,” said  Dr Yacine Zerguini, FIFA General Medical Officer for the U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 and a member of the world federation’s medical committee.

The medical committee also undertakes research during competition related to player injuries with the aim of developing an understanding to help reduce injuries and try to make a football match safer for players.

Injury types

Zerguini said: “We want football to be less dangerous for players, so we do research throughout the competition which ask the teams and their medical teams about what kinds of injury occur, what has caused the injury and other such information.”

The final report is sent back to FIFA’s Medical Assistance and Research Centre (F-MARC) and the medical committee, which can lead to new guidance for referees on the relevance of particular foul play which can cause.

The major medical concern in sport in general today is doping. This is not as pronounced in football as in some other sports – though no sport escapes unscathed.

Hence, during the current U-17 World Cup the young players are subjected to the same doping tests and match controls as they would be if they progressed to the World Cup itself.

Zerguini says: “Throughout history we have had very few cases of doping but the players are aware of the consequences and they know the procedure of doping tests.

“We explain to them why doping is bad and they accept it very well.”

The precise procedure is explained to all teams and players when they arrive in a host country and before competition begins. Two players from each team are chosen at random for testing at the end of every match.

Worldwide network

FIFA has also established its own database on the results of match dope tests and developed a worldwide network of specialists involved in anti-doping education within the confederations and national associations.

The last of the four themes centres on protecting the game by ensuring, as best as possible, that players fall within the age restrictions of a youth tournament.

Zerguini says: “It is not always easy to prove how old some players are but you cannot accuse someone just on the basis of how he looks in terms of height and weight.

“There is absolutely no correlation between appearance and age.”

Many countries lack formal birth registration and documentation systems common to Europe and North America. Hence the value of checking ages through use of a magnetic resoution imaging (MRI) wrist scan.

The formal method of checking ages is through use of a magnetic resoution imaging (MRI) wrist scan. FIFA expects each federation to assure themselves of their players’ ages but also, before the start of competition, checks four players at random from each squad.

Finally, the current U-17 World Cup has drawn extra fascination among fans, media, and the game at large because of the climatic conditions for football in the Gulf – aroused because of the controversy over the timing of the 2022 World Cup finals in neighbouring Qatar.

The U-17 finals involve matches only with evening kickoffs and none of the stadia have air cooling facilities.

Zerguini says: “Before each game we use a special device to check and measure the conditions – the air temperature, the wind speed, the humidity and so on. If it reaches a specific level then the referee is empowered to stop the game after thirty minutes in each half for three minutes to allow the players to take water, to rest and refresh.”

So far, after 44 games, such a break has not been necessary.


* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA

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