Poor Sepp. Another day, another call for a World Cup boycott. Sometimes it’s as if no one is listening to him.
“Political authorities must not interfere and intervene in sport. Leave sports alone,” was the message passed down by President Blatter from his home in the Alps above Zurich, just two months ago. And yet here comes Poland, calling for a boycott of the Russia World Cup, over the minor matter of it having invaded Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
When will these pesky politicians stop sticking their nose into Blatter’s business? You could almost see the frustration whirring inside his cannonball head as yet another call for common decency threatened to interrupt his busy day, posing for photographs with the Israeli Prime Minister and releasing a peace dove in the West Bank.
Zbigniew Boniek, the Polish midfielder who used to sit in the hole behind Michel Platini for Juventus and who is now the head of the Polish Football Association, has threatened to raise his wearisome point at Fifa’s annual congress next week, and ask whether the nations of Europe can really play a World Cup in a country they are actively maintaining sanctions against. Again, he has not been listening.
“No boycott of any sporting event has ever brought any solutions,” is Blatter’s distillation of the historical facts. It’s evidently a topic there wasn’t time to discuss when he applied what the African National Congress has since called “extreme pressure” on Nelson Mandela to rise from his deathbed to be driven, gaunt-looking, in a golf buggy around the pitch at South Africa’s World Cup opening ceremony. Praising the instrumental importance of the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa was about the first thing Mandela said as he walked out of prison. Again, why must these politicians interfere?
It is not they, of course, who can solve the world’s problems, but Fifa. Only yesterday, President Blatter’s final weekly column in Fifa’s magazine before his inevitable re-election for a fifth term next week, called on us all to “maintain the intensity and pace of our efforts ... and show racism and all forms of discrimination the red card. For ever!”
Yes! Let’s do this! And where better to start than by sending the World Cup to a nation where a member of the bid team, Vyacheslav Koloskov, still wonders why “monkey chants are believed to be racist. Where is it written?”
And then on to the next one, currently being built in the searing heat now known to be too hot to play football in, by an army of indentured slaves.
Still, they’re the lucky ones. So bored are the foreign labourers in their camps at being hassled by intrepid journalists – at least those that haven’t been arrested for attempting to do so – many have taken to reminding the press that there are many worse off than they are.
“The big problem with the Qataris is not on the building sites, it goes unseen,” a Kenyan labourer on a Qatari construction site recently told the football author James Corbett. “They hire maids from my country and others. The Qatari men fuck them, then won’t have them in their houses and tear up their sponsors’ permit. They are left with nothing.” According to Amnesty International, women who report having been raped will end up facing an “illicit relations” charge, which comes with a 12-month prison sentence. Should any of them end up pregnant, the baby is liable to be put in an Islamic orphanage and the mother deported.
No matter. Now that Qatar’s appalling human rights and labour rights records have been pointed out to Fifa, the World Cup, it has decided, will be a “catalyst for change”. And Blatter emerged from his most recent tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin declaring a World Cup in Russia will “build bridges” in the region, a turn of phrase we can only hope was deployed sparingly in a meeting which came not long after the leader of the opposition had been assassinated walking over one.
Still, now that the chief role of the Fifa World Cup is not merely a fun football tournament for fans to enjoy, but a strategic weapon in the fight for global peace and harmony, there is suddenly much for England to be optimistic about. Of course, we wouldn’t dare intervene in Fifa’s business, we know our place. But the 2026 decision will be made two summers from now, just in time for the UK to have broken itself up and flounced out of Europe, which should surely see us installed as favourites.
Rosetta probe town aims for another successful take-off
If you’re wondering where to look for footballing excitement on the final weekend of a fizzled-out season, then please, fill up the Steins, slap on the lederhosen and get behind the mighty SV Darmstadt. A tiny club in a tiny Bavarian town, but nevertheless it was from their base here that those ingenious scientists landed who Rosetta probe on a comet 317 million miles away, an achievement that will be eclipsed if the diminutive football team make it back to the German top tier. It’s a long story but it also happens to be where, having accidentally booked to see the wrong German Phil Collins tribute act, I spent a magnificent afternoon on the terrace with the finest fans in all of football, drinking beer, eating sausages and, eventually, getting the German crowd chanting in English. Where else in the world?
A win will do it for certain, and kick-off is at half-two. “We’re blue! We’re white! We’re f****** Dynamite! Darmstadt! Darmstadt!”Reuse content