The Intent Of The Law:The Debate On FIFA’s “FIRST GOAL” Award

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

As it is known, laws are made with certain intents to a particular situation or events. Sometimes it is to guide people’s behavior and attitude, and also to prohibit people from indulging into certain actions. The Eight Edition of the black’s Law Dictionary puts it this way, “Law is the regime that orders human activities through systematic application of the force of politically organized society, or through social pressure, backed by force, in such a society; the legal system (respect and obey the law),”.

Equally, laws, with synonyms like regulations, rules, precepts, canons, ordinances and statutes, which are applicable to certain situations or events are also made or promulgated to ensure that certain guidelines are followed and implemented to the letter.

This is why to make law more effective and binding, certain punishments are made for any violations of these laws because if such does not exist, then, the essence of making laws, rules, regulations, canons, precepts or ordinances, would be of no importance to human existence, especially so as it relates to behavior and attitude.

These various punishments such as fines, excommunication, suspension, dismissal or imprisonment are all intended to serve as deterrence, rehabilitation, incarceration, retribution, just to name a few of many such purposes for punishment.

However, sometimes the “INTENT” of the law becomes a controversial issue because its plain meaning is not too clear, as it is very ambiguous. As a result, there are all kinds of interpretations to the laws, thus making its enforceability difficult, as intent, which is also the “purpose” of the law is not understood.

The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), like any organization has rules that guide its conduct and those who associate with it. It is based on this that the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) has established certain rules and guidelines regarding the person who will score the first goal in the opening match of its World Cup game.

In one of its rules to add more impetus and flavor, and more importantly to make the World cup highly competitive, FIFA has made it a practice that anyone (player) who scores the first goal in the opening match of the World Cup would get a cash award from the Association.

Historically, the first goals scored at FIFA World Cups over recent decades dating back to Erwin Vandenbergh’s shock winner over holders Argentina in 1982. More recently Siphiwe Tshabalala’s remarkable strike for South Africa four years ago set the Rainbow Nation alight. According to FIFA the Opening Match has a habit of producing both memorable moments and upset results, highlighted by Francois Omam-Biyik’s astonishing header as Cameroon stunned Argentina in 1990, and Papa Bouba Diop’s winner for Senegal against France 12 years later.

But the million dollar question that has arisen since the Brazil and Croatia game, which was the opening match of the ongoing World Cup, taking place in Brazil, is whether or not this rule of “FIRST GOAL” by FIFA will this time be enforced, considering the fact that the FIRST GOAL in the match was mistakenly scored by a Brazilian player, Marcelo, against his team.

The awarding of this financial award for the ‘first goal’ has been a practice by the Federation. But this time around, the circumstance or scenario is quite different. It has brought about the question of the intent or purpose for which FIFA has been giving this award, as the first goal in this year’s ongoing World Cup was not scored by an opponent, but a member of his team through mistake or blunder.

The issue now here is whether or not FIFA would apply this rule, considering its “intent” for the FRIST GOAL Rule. It is based on this issue that I have decided to join in the debate in lieu of the subject matter, as it is of great importance to the issue of the intent or purpose of a piece of legislation, as in the case of the FIFA’s FIRTST GOAL Rule.

Although I am not part of FIFA’s legal team; as a student of law, I can clearly, succinctly and unambiguously say that what took place during the opening match in which a player of the Brazilian team mistakenly hit the ball that went into his team’s goal post, was not what the award is intended for.

In my reasoning, the FRIST GOAL RULE is intended for an opponent to score against his opponent, and not for a teammate to score against his own team. In this case, it was intended for a Croatian player to score against the Brazilian team, and not for a Brazilian player to score against his own team.

Can you imagine had the intent of the Federation is for a team player to score against his team, what then, would have been the spirit of competitiveness for the game? Certainly, it would have lost its essence. This is why this rule is very simple to understand without any further meaning being subscribed to it.

While FIFA is yet to comment on the issue, I can unambiguously or unequivocally say that it is meant for an opponent to score against an opponent, and not for a teammate to score against his own team, as was the case in the opening match last Thursday.

Until FIFA explains this FIRST GOAL Rule in the face of this strange development, I REST MY CASE.