The Last Word: Mr Blatter, the party's over

Brazilians riot against football and Pele is ridiculed – the end is nigh for costly World Cups and Olympics

The beautiful game is up. When Brazil is conditioned to hate the World Cup and its people traduce Pele as a traitor, football has lost its relevance and its reason. International sport may never be the same again.

Revolutions are sudden, instinctive and deadly. Empty rhetoric, regurgitated by grandees such as Sepp Blatter, has been rejected by those who want schools and hospitals rather than bread and circuses. It is hard to avoid the conclusion a tipping point has been reached.

Violent images from Brazil, of demonstrators silhouetted by flames and riot police using rubber bullets and pepper spray to suppress mass protest, have a relevance beyond the current Confederations Cup, next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Once major sports events become a focal point for social unrest and political opportunism, in the way such global governmental summits as G8 attract activists, they are an embarrassment rather than an embellishment to a nation's image.

Little wonder the invisible army of sleek-suited parasites who have subjugated sport to their own commercial ends are terrified; sponsors and TV executives will peer into the abyss and recognise the toxicity of their situation.

Should they revert to type, the men who run organisations such as Fifa and the IOC will only trust themselves to partner undemocratic and unyielding regimes. The natural extension to football's World Cup cycle, following dubious staging posts in Russia and Qatar, is to pitch up in North Korea.

Yet they are deaf to those who resent their irreconcilable privileges. Fifa made in excess of £2 billion from the 2010 World Cup, leaving South Africa's fragile economy to underwrite building programmes, infrastructure projects, policing and security strategies. London's Olympic legacy is negligible.

The World Cup, like the Olympics, is collapsing under the weight of its pretension. When Blatter lectured protesters for threatening football's "spirit, essence and integrity" he was reminded that he succeeded a Brazilian, Joao Havelange, who was exposed as corrupt and despotic.

As the discredited president of a discredited organisation, Blatter acted in character by scuttling away from the protests of two million citizens, galvanised by the inequalities represented by sports events which have become too big, too costly and too grandiose in times of economic hardship.

He was blind to the irony of his refuge, Turkey, whose hopes of staging the 2020 Olympics have been swallowed by the flames of simultaneous internal unrest, timed to coincide with the Under-20 World Cup. Fundamental change is in the air.

The fate of Pele informs us of the limited power of legend. The sense of betrayal and the subsequent loss of respect when he vilified demonstrators as "bandits and bad people" was profound. Romario, a World Cup winner turned congressman, dismissed him as "a poet, when his mouth is shut".

Footballers are becoming politicised. The Brazil players David Luiz, Dani Alves, Hulk and Fred spoke in unison, supporting those who took to the streets. Neymar accused his government of ignoring their "obligation" to the Brazilian people.

The game has been a source of pride, a unifying factor in a disparate country. The passion remains – many players were on the verge of tears when a sell-out crowd sang an a capella version of the national anthem before the recent win over Mexico – but the poison must be extracted. Blatter and his cronies should be consigned to the dustbin of history as soon as is convenient.

It's hard to lose a leader like Cram

Bureaucrats breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Steve Cram announced his intention to step down as chairman of the English Institute of Sport.

It is a decade too late for those whose shortcomings were exposed by the former world-record holder's insight, intelligence and political nous. I'll declare an interest. Cram and a visionary named Wilma Shakespear persuaded me to take a five-year sabbatical from scribbling to help set up the EIS.

It was an instructive process. No sooner had we been empowered to oversee a strategic vision for supporting Olympic athletes than there was a concerted attempt to kill the organisation at birth.

Establishment figures sent in shamefully expensive management consultants to waste time and money which would have been better invested in a new generation of sport scientists.

We survived, and thrived. A new culture has been developed by young, fiercely committed and impeccably qualified support staff, who make the critical difference.

The EIS have more than 200 practitioners, who worked with 86 per cent of the Team GB medallists at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Without Cram, that would not have been possible. He is precisely the sort of leader British sport cannot afford to lose.

GB's scam prix

British motor racing fans are deserting next week's British Grand Prix at Silverstone in droves because of exploitative ticket prices, which begin at £145. Formula One, a sport so self-obsessed it has spent weeks creating a crisis out of a team's clandestine tyre-testing, deserves everything it gets.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
Life and Style
tech
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'