Michael Calvin: Fifa 14 is now Call of Duty

Anyone who believes in natural justice must pray the masses pour on to the streets and amplify their disgust at the charlatans of Fifa who run the game

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The Independent Football

The autocratic elite, whose condescension has mutated into open contempt, are convinced they have won. They want us to concentrate on the football, conspire in the illusion of its purity, and accept Brazil’s World Cup for what it is, a glimpse into the heart of darkness.

The imposition of a reverse morality is complete. Protest is deemed not only futile, but an act of sedition. An economic miracle which excludes an underclass that exists in tents constructed of plastic sheeting and scavenged firewood must not be threatened.

No one batted an eyelid on Friday night when, during the paternalistic burbling that passes as a Fifa presidential address, Sepp Blatter called for a suspension of global armed activity for the duration of a tournament in which 157,000 soldiers and FBI-trained riot police have been ordered to keep the peace.

They will be supported by Israeli-supplied drones, 48 aircraft, 20 warships and 60 fast-response vessels such as speed boats. Twelve military command centres have been set up across the country and 36 ground-to-air missile batteries, purchased from the German army, have been deployed. Fifa 14 has become a real-time version of Call of Duty.

Blatter, who evidently covets the Nobel Peace Prize above all the trinkets of pseudo-statesmanship, is also busily claiming credit for sanctioning the Palestine team which, in one of football’s few genuine fairytales, won the Asian Challenge Cup on Friday.

The privileges accorded Joana Havelange, a member of the World Cup organising committee, are rather more financial than spiritual. It is tempting, but deceptive, to style her as football’s Marie Antoinette for loftily demanding protesters desist in their quest to get the £6.6 billion earmarked for the tournament redirected to health and education because it has already been “spent”, “stolen” or “robbed”.

That comparison underplays the significance of her bloodlines. Her grandfather Joao Havelange, Blatter’s predecessor as Fifa president, and her father, Ricardo Teixeira, the disgraced former head of the Brazilian FA, were found by a Swiss prosecutor to have  taken £25 million in bribes involving  the sale of Fifa’s World Cup marketing rights.

The family continues to escape the consequences of institutionalised larceny. Teixiera, who fled to Miami for “health reasons”, is returning to Brazil for the Cup. Fifa still offer research scholarships in the name of Joao Havelange, who ran world football as a personal fiefdom for 24 years. Conveniently, Fifa didn’t have a code of ethics until 2004.

Such men may be stripped of office, but they have sacrificed none of their influence. They had no dignity to lose, and their malignance endures. It has consumed Pele, who has never been forgiven for embracing Teixiera, after initially taking the courageous option of challenging the culture of corruption he represented.

Pele is the embodiment of a distorted dream, a dirt-poor boy who became the world’s greatest footballer. His licensing and endorsement deals for cars, watches, banks, airlines and drug companies are, according to his latest manager Paul Kemsley, the former Tottenham Hotspur vice-chairman, worth £44m.

Yet the legend has become sullied. When 1,283 gems were created from carbon derived from his hair in a pre-Cup stunt, he was compelled to counter widespread scepticism about his motives by announcing proceeds would go to a paediatric health project.

If his brand becomes irredeemably toxic – and there are already calls for a boycott of sponsors associated with the Cup – then Blatter’s thoughtless boast that “King  Football shall reign” in what will be “a  great World Cup” could come back to  haunt him.

Anyone who believes in natural justice must pray the masses pour on to the streets to amplify their disgust. Run the charlatans out of town. There is no better time, or place, to reclaim the game.


Hape can give hope to others

“Everyone got concussed. I can’t think of a single guy I played with who didn’t. You just got up and played on. We were told to be warriors. It’s the nature of the sport. Harden up. That was the mentality.”

With those words Shontayne Hape promises to achieve more than he ever did as an England rugby union and New Zealand rugby league player. His is the authentic voice of two sports which remain in denial.

He estimates he was concussed 20 times in his league career, which ended when he switched from Bradford Bulls to Bath, and on to London Irish. The physical toll of his trade was devastating because the punishment in union multiplied.

He was forced to stay in a darkened room for days. He loved music but could not bear to listen to it. His family life disintegrated because he lacked the tolerance to deal with three young children.

He trained on smelling salts, painkillers and high-caffeine sports drinks. He suffered dizziness, fatigue and migraines. His memory became so haphazard he could not remember the PIN number of his bank card. Silence was encouraged by a macho culture and financial dependence.

A specialist insisted he retire in January, but it took time to acquiesce. Hape suffers from depression, but insists he doesn’t want sympathy, only action. He must get it.


Dignified strife of Brian

Football management is a brutal business, and Brian McDermott deserves more than to be pigeon-holed as one of its inevitable casualties.

He retained his dignity and professional values before his inevitable departure from Leeds United. He leaves a club in turmoil, but sent a message yesterday hailing the club’s “fantastic” fans.

That was not the usual platitude. His sorrow was genuine, and affecting. He will be back, strengthened by adversity and ready to achieve anew.