Fifa presidential election: If I had a vote, I would back Sepp Blatter

He may not be a popular choice, but can we get some perspective, please?

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The Independent Online

I think this is what civil servants tell ministers is a “brave” thing to do. I am going to – here and now – stick up for Sepp Blatter.

Looking at the vast global media coverage – I confess including our own – you would think all of this is the most important matter facing the world, almost. Bigger than climate change, bigger, than the economy, bigger than Islamic State, bigger than North Korea’s nukes. We have lost all sense of proportion.

Sometimes journalists write things just to be “controversial” (for which read “offensive” to those who disagree). This is no such argument. As you can see, I've hesitated before declaring my central point here because of my nervousness about what I am about to say, but the time has arrived: IT IS ONLY FOOTBALL.

I know corruption is wrong, I know it should be rooted out, and I know it causes real harm. But this corruption is in the world of sport. It is not something that really matters, or should matter, that much to people. If we were to discover that the World Health Organisation, or Unicef, or HM Treasury, or the White House, or Google, or the BBC were systematically corrupt, then, yes, that would matter a good deal, for fairly obvious reasons.

Real lives and livelihoods are at stake; real human welfare being perverted for personal gain by some crook or other. Now I know footie is a huge global business – witness the sponsorship and obscene salaries in our world-beating Premier league – but it is all rather irrational.

I recall that great quote by Bill Shankly (I think) about football being more important than life or death. That, though, was such a clever and striking phrase because it summed up how passionately fans care about their team(s) and the beautiful game. Indeed, world cup football is just about the only kind I watch, and I greatly enjoy it. Yet people are wrong to care about it so much.

It is not rational to do so. I do not, you see, confuse it with the movement to end world hunger or defeat religious extremism. Football has got too big for its boots, in a sense; and we really oughtn’t to upset ourselves so much about it. To me, watching the great Fifa crisis, it is as if the Flat Earth Society had suddenly been caught out with some naughtiness, and a whole nation had descended into grief as a result. Perspective, as I say.

Second, I have to say that as far as I can see the Blatter way of doing business may have something to be said for it. He gets all those votes in the Fifa elections from African and Asian countries partly because he makes sure Fifa spends lots of cash in developing – ie poor – countries on building football facilities of one kind or another. Er – that is a “good thing” is it not? What is wrong with helping kids in Kenya or Trinidad become sports stars, or at least enjoy the game as much as German or French kids?

Maybe we feel as though only European football really counts, revealed in the slightly condescending attitude you sometimes saw in the media as nations such as Cameroon and Nigeria started to emerge as footballing forces. If Sepp Blatter was behind that broadening of football world-wide, then that is a plus on his balance sheet. I also wonder whether some of the bile that is sprayed onto this odd little man is due to the fact that England/Britain failed to win the bids to host the next two tournaments, and instead they went to counties we don’t think much of for reasons unconnected with sport – Qatar and Russia.

So I may be a lone, despised voice here, but I am, still, free to voice an opinion, I hope, though the football fascists will abuse me for it. Blatter gets my vote.

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