National soccer team set-up deserves fair-play award

By George Georgakopoulos

Besides a spot in the World Cup finals, Greece may deserve a fair-play award for its handling of a Romanian error that could have annulled the result of the first leg of the qualifying playoffs between the two teams last week at the Romanians' expense.

According to Greek newspaper SportDay, Greek federation officials noticed before the first game between the two teams in Piraeus that Romania had violated the FIFA rule that dictates that all federations that announce a 23-player squad for a game will need to include three goalkeepers.

Romania failed to do so, probably in ignorance of the rule, because their main keeper, who did feature in the return leg, Ciprian Tatarusanu, was not fit for the first match due to an injury. Had they violated that rule, Romania would lose the match with a 3-0 score. Federations can only declare two goalkeepers if they announce squads of only 20 players.

Instead of playing the game and then resorting to FIFA to have the result annulled and win the game 3-0, the Greece set-up – led by director Takis Fyssas and with coach Fernando Santos fully aware – contacted directly the Romanian federation and alerted officials about their error before the match at the Karaiskakis Stadium.

The Romanians acted immediately, but instead of calling up another goalkeeper – given the shortage of time – they added the name of an outfield player to those of Bogdan Lobont and Costan Pantilimon as the three goalkeepers of the Romanian national team for the Friday game.

Fyssas reportedly told the Romanians “we want to qualify on the field and not on paper,” to which the Romanian officials responded with their honest gratitude.