The Last Word: I would enjoy watching the English suffer
Fifa executives are used to being treated with the utmost respect, so what chance have the FA got?
Sunday 21 November 2010
If I was a voting member of Fifa, I'd tell the FA where to stick their "England United, The World Invited" nonsense next week. "It's our ball," I'd say to them. "And we're going home (or at least to Moscow)."
Well, why shouldn't I? The English and their damned free press have made this blessed organisation look like a bunch of self-serving rotters. One of their newspapers tricked a few of the executive into asking for backhanders, and their state-funded TV channel are determined to run a remake of the ghosts of corruptions past just three days before Fifa decide the hosts for their 2018 and 2022 spectaculars. Are they mad?
This wouldn't be like turkeys voting for Christmas, it would be like the banks voting for the Socialist Workers' Party. It wouldn't bother me one bit that the FA or the government have no control over England's media. The World Cup is bestowed on an entire nation, not on a few bid chiefs or a couple of oily politicians. In my eyes, England, and their pious free-speaking principles, would have blown it. They would have dared to show Fifa disrespect.
How stupid, how naïve. Don't they know who they're dealing with here? These people are important. They must be; just see the way they are treated, are fêted. They go over to the bidding nations to check that the stadiums have plush enough hospitality boxes and on their way are granted police escorts to the finest eateries and most sumptuous hotels. They are invited to 10 Downing Streets and White Houses and Red Squares to meet the heads of state. It is David Cameron who feels obliged to appear honoured when pictured with Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter. Not vice versa.
No, these are the decision-makers, the men who will be reaching verdicts of much greater significance than whether Morocco play Belgium in Bristol or Bilbao. As President Blatter declared the other day: "2 December is going to be an important day, not just for football but for international politics." Did you hear that? "International politics." That's big stuff, far bigger than Australia versus Mexico being staged in Milton Keynes or Nizhny Novgorod.
"We have nine bids and they will send prime ministers, heads of government and high-ranking people in the field of politics," declared Blatter. They'll even send Prince William – a proper royal, for goodness' sake. As Putin bows and scrapes and King Juan Carlos kisses their hands, how could these football administrators think of themselves as anything less than hugely significant? I couldn't. It would be impossible to do so.
On leaving behind the local sports halls, where as a volunteer I would originally have begged for kit and balls, I would eventually have entered the marble corridors of Zurich and brushed up against figures like Blatter and Jack Warner. Once ordained, I would have recognised the manner in which such luminaries operate.
With Warner, the Fifa vice-president, I would have noted the way this former teacher built his wealth. I would have seen that he felt no shame in telling the Trinidad Guardian: "I began buying properties across Trinidad from the salary and allow-ances I received from Fifa. This made it easy for me to invest. I have had one or two good fortunes." I would also have witnessed Warner facing public censure from Fifa after being implicated in the selling of tickets for three times their face value at the 2006 World Cup; and then proceededto watch him flourish in the second- highest role in the association anyway. I would have realised that Fifa's ability to forgive was only rivalled by their capacity to forget.
Take the example of Jérôme Valcke. In December 2006, Blatter removed the Frenchman as the Fifa marketing director after a New York judge had condemned him for lying to two companies in sponsorship negotiations. "Fifa cannot possibly accept such conduct among its own employees," said Fifa. So what happened six months later, after an appeals court had remanded the case? Valcke was appointed Fifa's general secretary.
That's Fifa for you, and as a "made" representative I would have long understood the loyalty we display to our own. When Valcke announced the suspensions of the two executive committee members and four other officials last week – after the cash-for-votes allegations printed in a British broadsheet – I would have figured, "They'll be back". Who knows, they may even one day make it to even higher office. I would put nothing beyond Fifa's recovery powers.
That would comfort me, particularly as whispers of collusion between bidders swirled around the voting hall. I would look back at the trips I'd made at the bidders' immense expense and read the dozen or so blindingly obvious paragraphs that comprise the individual reports into the candidate countries' suitability and enjoy a little giggle to myself. What a gig! What a life!
But then, I would see some English fools probing and digging and mentioning words like "corruption" and I'd bristle. Rock the apple cart, would they? Fine, we'll roll it somewhere where it's appreciated. Where everyone fawns, where nobody questions, where they understand the preciousness of the gift in our grasp. Yes, I'd vote for someone else, and d'you know what? I'd take more satisfaction in seeing the English squirm than the Russians or Spaniards celebrate. Now there's power. That's the buzz I'd have been groomed to expect.
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