Occean suspension must be served over “official” matches, not friendlies: FIFA

Olivier Occean

There looks to be some confusion out there in regards to FIFA’s decision to suspend Olivier Occean for six matches.

FIFA made the decision back in November of 2012 that the Canadian striker would be suspended for six games, but didn’t make it official until Monday. Occean was sent off in a 3-0 win over Cuba Oct. 12 at BMO Field, and was found guilty of verbally abusing an official.

Occean was unavailable for the 8-1 loss to Honduras that ousted Canada from the World Cup, so was considered to have served the first game of the suspension then.

The question is, do Canada’s friendlies count as matches against the remaining five games?

Here is the official wording from FIFA.

· The player Olivier Occean is to be suspended for six (6) matches. The automatic match suspension has already been served during the Preliminary Competition match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™: Honduras v Canada, on 16 October 2012

· In view of the fact that the representative team of Canada did not qualify for the next round of the Preliminary Competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ played at CONCACAF level (“Round 4”), the remaining five match suspension is to be carried over and served during the representative team’s subsequent official matches, in accordance with art. 38 par. 2 a) of the FDC.

So, let’s go to section 38 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.:

1. As a general rule, every match suspension (of players and other persons) is carried over from one round to the next in the same competition.

2. Match suspensions in relation to an expulsion pronounced on a player outside of a competition (separate match[es]) or not served during the competition for which they were intended (elimination or the last match in the competition) are carried over as follows:

a) FIFA World Cup: carried over to the representative team’s subsequent official match.

What does that mean? Because FIFA used section 2 a) of the code, it means that Occean misses the next five games that count for something, i.e. qualifiers, Gold Cup, etc. According to FIFA, an “official match” is “a match organized under the auspices of a football organization for all of the teams or clubs in its sphere of operation; the score has an effect on the rights of participation in other competitions unless the regulations in question stipulate otherwise.” An official match, according to FIFA, is NOT a friendly match, which has its own definition in the rulebook.

There is a section in FIFA’s Disciplinary Code that allows suspensions to be carried over to friendly matches, but THAT’s section 2 g). And it was section a, not g, that was used in the FIFA suspension.

It is also worth noting that Canada played two friendlies since the Honduras match. Occean did not feature in either. But FIFA has made it clear that Occean still has five games to go on the suspension. Had the friendlies counted, that would have been whittled down to three. But today’s announcement has Occean still needing five games to get out of the way.

If Canada can go deep into the Gold Cup, it can go a long way to clearing off the games for the striker.

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.