James Corrigan: England beware: Teixeira, Fifa's next president, makes Blatter look saintly
The Way I See It
Plainly, the poor old boy's not been getting much sleep. It's a good job Ricardo Teixeira has the use of a private jet and isn't forced to travel on certain low-cost airlines. He would be charged a fortune with all those bags under his eyes.
But then, the president of the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol has always carried plenty of baggage so perhaps we should recognise those heavy lids as a mere physical characteristic rather than as any manifestation of stress. Accused by Panorama of taking bribes, accused by Lord Triesman of wanting a bribe, accused by many others of both and more; Teixeira is well used to being splattered by the brown stuff and then cultivating it to produce the sweetest-smelling of roses.
And now he intends to embark on the most audacious horticultural work known to football, on the most treasured pitches known to football. Through all the muck and the grime of Brazil 2014 he will bloom as the hero. Then he will take over Fifa. Bravo, Ricardo!
It's a plan he hatched with Joao Havelange, the visionary who made Fifa exactly the revered governing body it is today. It says so much about Teixeira's cunning and scheming abilities that he has maintained the patronage of this footballing Don. After all, he divorced Havelange's daughter and remarried a female 30 years his junior, whom he started dating when she was 19. In Godfather II Teixeira would have ended up with a baseball bat round his bonce, but in Havelange II his cranium is being measured for the crown. "Ricardo wanted to run [for the Fifa presidency] now, but I told him, 'Put on a good World Cup, treat everyone well, and they'll vote for you out of gratitude'."
The 95-year-old, who retains his oily wash by swimming a mile each day, said the above to Daniela Pinheiro, a brilliant and, it must be said, extremely attractive journalist for Piaui, a culture magazine based in Rio. It was such a telling aside in an interview with Teixeira which stretched over many days and many pages. If you do want an insight into this most shameless of sporting administrators and a glimpse of football's immediate future simply type "Teixeira" and "Pinheiro" into Google. But be careful to put on your thermals first – it makes for a chilling read.
You might already have gleaned a flavour of the profile last week. It was here where he referred to the English as "pirates" and to our press, heaven forbid, as "corrupt". Fine insults, no doubt, but the killer quote arrived in the conclusion. "In 2014, I'll be able to get away with anything," said Teixeira. "The most slippery, unthinkable, Machiavellian things. Denying press credentials, barring access, changing game schedules. And you know what? Nothing will happen. You know why? Because in 2015 I'm out of here. It'll all be over."
The initial reaction to this boast is to laugh and compare him to those daft villains in the Bond movies who tell the superspy exactly how they are planning world domination while aiming a faulty circular saw at his nether regions. But we shouldn't, because Ricardo's serious and showed he was at the World Cup qualifying draw on Saturday night.
In Brazil, you can't commit anything more "unthinkable" than snubbing Pele. It's like St Peter not inviting God to midnight mass. That didn't stop Teixeira, who refused to give The Greatest a role after he panned him for his statements to Pinheiro. True, the Brazilian government stepped in and Pele ended up with his front row seat and a standing ovation. But Teixeira had made his point, "Criticise me and I will react – halo or no halo". It made me wonder as I, like everyone else, struggled through that draw which gave "interminable" a new time-frame: isn't Teixeira following his machia-vellian path already?
The old Italian philosopher, himself, would have made the perfect Fifa ExCo member and if he somehow convinced Fifa to allow him to totally compromise the position of Federation president by also heading the World Cup's organising committee he would have been acutely aware "how better it is to be feared than loved". Machiavelli would have seen the importance of emphasising who is boss and making everyone realise the success or failure of Brazil 2014 would be down to him. In a football-obsessed country beaming to a football-obsessed world, he would understand that failure is nigh-on impossible. It's the ultimate win-win situation.
Machiavelli would have seen all the protests outside that Gloria Marina area and smiled. The focus wasn't on the genuinely significant gripes of the draw costing $20m of public money, of 20,000 locals being removed from their homes in the "regeneration", of Fifa raping the country's tax laws to reap their traditional bounty; but on the trifle of Teixeira's dismissal. That isn't going to happen; Brazil 2014 is going to happen. And at the end of a month of intoxicating sights and sounds, of colour and music, there will only be one real winner.
Yes, Ricardo will be out of the Brazilian federation, but in terms of the world it certainly wouldn't be over. He would duly replace Sepp Blatter and very soon we would hark back to the comparatively clean Fifa era of the saintly Swiss. "I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it," said Machiavelli. It's all there for the man who hates England.
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