James Lawton: Selective morality puts FA in danger of hypocrisy

Sepp Blatter understands everything about the value of money and nothing about racism

Before too much shock and horror envelops the latest evidence that Sepp Blatter has the moral antennae of the average Arctic musk-ox, let's not forget that he is the guy who made a joke of how Thierry Henry cheated his and France's way into the last World Cup.

Or that he was the father of football who advised women players that they should dress – or rather undress – a little more like lap dancers.

We can add any number of moral and commercial outrages – he made the Henry joke while presenting the ball used at vast profit but appallingly distorting inefficiency at the last great tournament – right up the manipulation of the Fifa presidential election which came in the wake of the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar, maybe the most egregious decision in the history of the world's most popular game.

All of these considerations – and many more – make a strong case for Blatter's impeachment after his ultimately crass statement that victims of racial abuse on the football field should essentially grin and bear it while reminding themselves that the world is full of iniquity, stretching all the way from racism and ethnic cleansing to some quite diabolical over-the-top tackling.

However, it is still enough to make you a little queasy when you hear that the Football Association – which was so inflamed by the one decision Fifa managed to call correctly last week, a reluctance to grant England the unique right to have poppies woven into the team shirts – is agonising over another attempt to destabilise the Fifa president.

This is not because of any absence of reasons to call for the head of this outrageous exploiter of the world's game. Indeed, guess at one and you have probably landed another bull'seye. No, the trouble is that any moral posturing by the FA cannot reasonably escape the charge that if England's bid to host the World Cup of 2018 had been successful we would all still be playing happy families as football heads for next year's European Championship in Ukraine and Poland – or, put another way, the heartland of a particularly virulent form of publicly expressed racism.

Indeed, instead of being characterised as a most risible pariah, Blatter would almost certainly be showing up at Buck House and Downing Street garden parties. He wouldn't be getting shrill lectures from Prime Minister David Cameron on the subject of poppies but gold-embossed invitations to various state occasions. There might even have been one for Blatter's erstwhile confederate, Jack Warner of Trinidad.

How long ago, for example, was it that Cameron and Prince William and David Beckham went trailing off to Switzerland caps in hands?

Or the British media was being advised that it was "unpatriotic" and unhelpful to delve into Fifa corruption on the way to the final voting for 2018?

None of this removes the obligation of any national association to stand up for the most drastically needed reform of the world governing body. None of it dissipates the horror that came with the news that Qatar would be hosting a World Cup in the most farcical conditions, a climatic nightmare that could not have been imagined when another Fifa president, Jules Rimet, first dreamt up the idea of a world tournament and saw it awarded to Uruguay.

A retrospective theory might be that this was an early example of Fifa chicanery, the award going to a Third World shanty town like Montevideo. In fact, the Uruguayan capital was a blossoming, well-heeled port which had largely survived the ravages of the fall of Wall Street. Every contending nation had all their expenses covered – which probably made it still more agreeable to launch sport's greatest tournament in a culture where football had become so integral there was little surprise when the home team, having beaten Yugoslavia 6-1 in the semi-final, went on to defeat Argentina 4-2.

There had been some doubt about going to South America but Fifa was rewarded with some authentic passion. The Argentina star Luis Monti received the compliment of a death threat and the final crowd of 68,000 would have been far greater had the gates of the new and sparkling Centenario stadium not been tightly jammed long before kick-off.

Ancient football history, sure, but it has a haunting resonance on the 11-year countdown to a World Cup born of nothing more than the wonders of air conditioning and the random wealth that comes when you discover gas and oil in the middle of the desert.

No, Qatar's World Cup would not be happening if the running of international football retained a squeak of morality, and yes Blatter, who understands everything about the value of money and how it can shape people, and apparently absolutely nothing about the meaning of racism, should be driven out into the wind and the sand.

But that can only happen when selective morality is also sent into the wilderness. Before anything else, the FA needs to recognise that English football might be one valuable place to start.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
love + sex
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all