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Cloud of scandal hangs over the Beautiful Game

NINETY minutes at Wembley on Saturday night settled many questions. Barcelona are the best football team in the world, possibly the greatest of all time.

Lionel Messi has confirmed his place in the sport's pantheon alongside Pele, George Best and the rest of the super-heroes. Barcelona sent out an unspoken but eloquent message to the millions of young people watching the Champions League final on television. To win titles in team sports, other methods can be employed than brute force and sly misconduct. Soccer is the Beautiful Game. The winners' performance on Saturday night was a thing of beauty.

And the referee helped, with a keen eye and a light touch. Perhaps a shade too gentle a touch, in the view of some Barcelona fans, but not remotely comparable to the amazing indulgence and apparent myopia of the referee who helped to spoil the last World Cup final.

What a pity, though, that this wonderful match was played at a time when world soccer is reeling from the blows inflicted on it by the scandals that plague the governing body, FIFA.

Team sports should inculcate in the young the virtues of honesty and fair play. Instead, they too often see outrageous misbehaviour on the field and stories of corruption off it. The age of innocence cannot be restored, but FIFA can clean up its own act and show a good example.