Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Sepp Blatter: FIFA's re-elected emperor has clothes, but no moral fibre

Plain sailing resumes in the Sepp Blatter FIFAdom. Just about all of Zurich’s 208 representatives, three of them suspended, gathered to ease their president through stormy seas and on to a serene fourth term.

Emperor Sepptic, with clothes but no moral fibre, emerges to tell us he was “the captain of the ship”, and he would steer that stricken vessel to safety.

He’ll change the way World Cups are awarded, he’ll make FIFA so transparent we’ll be able to see right through it. As if we don’t already.

All smiles today, not like Monday night’s “elegance and respect” ranting at the world’s media. No waving of the FIFA Ethics book. This paid-up audience was his. He waffled on for ages, saying nothing, reassuring those worried executives at Adidas, Emirates Airlines and Visa. When sponsors like that get uptight, Blatter goes in to top gear, even at the ripe old age of 75.

More talk of this Ethics place. Has he ever been to Chelmsford on a Friday night?

Of course Uncle Josep was enjoying himself today. He’d just seen attempts to unseat his sizeable bottom from the football’s hottest seat fail, with a little help from what FIFA watchers might call “the little big guns”.

England’s David Bernstein was shot down in flames by Haiti, Congo, Benin and Cyprus. Hardly the big names of football or the global political stage, but important here, where money makes the ball go round.

Bernstein had done his best to satisfy the angry folks at home. After the suspended Jack “Pirates of the Caribbean” Warner had leaked FIFA big-shot Jerome Valcke’s email - the one which said “Qatar might have bought the World Cup but they can’t by the FIFA Presidency” Bernstein had quite reasonably requested a postponement of today’s one-man election.

While Germany’s Theo Zwanziger called for a review of the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, Bernstein (with a little help from arch-democrat and self-made-man Prince William in the tabloids) called for a delay, presumably so somebody more stiff-upper-lipped could have a tilt at Blatter.

Bernstein received a smattering of polite applause before the mighty voices of Haiti, Benin, Congo and Cyprus put him back in his place. “Undemocratic”, they said, “Destabilising”, “Let’s all pull together”. That sort of bunkum. Forget Ethics or Middlethex.

And then came Argentina. Never England’s greatest allies (google Malvinas and/or Hand Of God), their bloke Julio Grondona insisted: "We always have attacks - mostly with lies and with the support of journalism which is more busy lying than telling the truth."

Yup. Lies. That’s why the Sun in London this morning ran the classic “Despot the difference” with pictures of Blatter and Ghadaffi.

That’s why two executive committee members – Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam, who so controversially “bought” that World Cup for Qatar in 2022 – are suspended.

Wasn’t Bin Hammam the one who was supposed to be competing against Blatter extending a reign which started in 1998, when Lionel Messi was a tiny young thing?

Cleary, we must all be wrong. An attempt to change the agenda failed miserably, with just two absentions (probably England and Scotland) and three suspensions to mar the unanimous vote.

But efforts to delay the actual crowning of Blatter soon failed too. This time 17 countries backed England's call and another 17 abstained. Progress. But nowhere near the 75 percent support needed to delay Blatter’s fourth presidency. A landslide 172 delegates voted for Blatter’s coronation (and continued pocket lining for the tiny nations).

Not your fault, Mr Bernstein. Like the Eurovision song contest, England are viewed as arrogant colonial bullies, and in football the envy shown towards the almighty English Premier League causes real resentment among the smaller nations.

And of course, the 2018 World Cup bid saw England garner just one real vote. After all those appearances by the hard-working, family-businessman Prince William and his humble pal Baron David Beckham. Russia ran away with it of course, despite the technical difficulties of travelling vast distances between stadia and the huge cost of building nine new stadia.

Just like Qatar really. Australia had a perfect bid. With the Sydney 2000 Olympics and 2003 Rugby World Cup, who could doubt their credentials. But Qatar, with 12 stadia within an hour of eachother, temperatures soaring above 40 degrees and no evidence of every assembling a crowd of over 15,000 for a football match, made it.

And if you want to know what the conditions are like for workers in Qatar, try

Ah, the injustice. But we little Englanders bleat too much. It will be four long years before Frenchman Michel Platini gets to make his hop from UEFA presidency to FIFA ubergruppenfuhrer.

Then the trouble really will start. Platini is no fan of the big English clubs, let alone the nation.

He wants the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United to cut back their debt to manageable levels, leaving Arsenal the only side standing in the top half of the Premier League. Hmm. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

And by then Bin Hammam and Jack Warner will be long forgotten, as will Valcke’s incriminating but “private” email).

Russia and Qatar will merrily host two difficult World Cups, FIFA will make a packet and all this will be for nought.

But it’s wrong. There is a slim chance Brazil's Ricardo Teixeira could squeeze in ahead of Platini. Me? I’d plump for Danny Jordaan, the principled, quietly-spoken brains behind South Africa 2010.

But it appears to matter little for now. Over the next four year’s Blatter will batter his bitter enemies, introducing apparent reforms and using his Swiss bank accounts to good effect.

Not a great time to be head of the FA. But not a bad time to be Haiti’s FIFA delegate.

Who the hell is Neal Collins (nealcol on Twitter)? See

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