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Ronaldo loses young player crown, by a wink & dive
- Reward for Podolski as Fifa criticises Portugal star’s actions but says youth should get a chance

Berlin, July 7: A wink and a dive may have cost Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo the Best Young Player Award at the World Cup.

Lukas Podolski took the honour instead as Fifa tried to tell the world that nice guys do at times come out winners.

Germany, which played the perfect host to the tournament and entertained fans with some exciting football till it met a better team in Italy in a heartbreaking semi-final, received some reward for its toils.

“I would have very much liked to take another trophy home but I’m very very glad to have this,” Podolski said.

The award was decided by a combination of a public vote and selection by Fifa’s technical study group (TSG). Ronaldo ran some 40 metres to talk to the referee and England’s Wayne Rooney was shown the red card. Seconds later, he winked at the Portugal bench as if to underline his success.

Holger Osieck, the head of the TSG, and former Germany international Lothar Matthaeus, the patron of the award, said Ronaldo’s behaviour at the finals did not help his cause.

Asked whether Ronaldo harmed his chances of winning the award, Matthaeus added: “You will never have 100 per cent fair play. Looking at Cristiano Ronaldo he was obviously doing something here. It’s not nice and it’s not just.”

Osieck echoed him. “Players should be role models and fair play is a consideration. But we have to admit young players are not always mature tactically and they also have difficulties in handling stressful situations.”

While Fifa has tried in this tournament to come down hard on cheating, diving and seeking to persuade the referee to punish the opponents with a yellow or a red card, as in Ronaldo’s case, are hardly dead.

At the top of football’s governing body there is understanding ' as evident from Osieck’s statement ' that in the heat of the moment young players will commit such offences.

“He may have accumulated a couple of minus points due to the gesture with (England’s Wayne) Rooney but sometimes you forget what the laws are in the heat of the fight,” Matthaeus said.

In the football world, this question of cheating is not really a black-and-white issue, though there’s no dearth of moral grandstanding.

Fifa chief Sepp Blatter, who has led the crackdown on cheating, himself admitted in an interview to CNN that he often dived trying to win free kicks when he played in the top amateur league in his native Switzerland.

“I was not a perfect player, I have to say, being a striker.

“I tried... to get some advantages by joking with a player and then falling down by saying ‘but he touched me’.”

Blatter said he understood why attacking players dived, particularly when they are in the 18-yard area and lose the ball.

“You are frustrated, and then in the frustration you do two things, either you try to get the ball back and then you commit a foul or you say ‘but he touched me’, and then you fall down.”

France striker Thierry Henry would agree to that. In the semi-final, he has been accused of diving to get a penalty and against Spain a free kick which resulted in a goal.

“I think this is a normal movement and I can understand the players acting like that. But now they are at the level of the World Cup and they are the professionals, so they should think about that, but it’s in the game,” Blatter said.

Is he then saying that it’s okay to cheat at club level but not at soccer’s showpiece, the World Cup'

Franz Beckenbauer, the president of the German organising committee for the tournament, has called a summit meeting of players, coaches and referees in a bid to stop play-acting.

The wink and the dive didn’t take Ronaldo past the semi-final where he was booed whenever he touched the ball and police in England fear for his safety if he returns to play for Manchester United.

But many have got away with worse, as Matthaeus pointed out, asking for some leniency.

“Give the young player a break. Give them a chance, remember Maradona scored a goal with the hand of God, that was not fair play and there are many other examples you could quote.”

Say that again.

Written with agency reports

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