Thursday 2 December 2010

The peace prize dream of Sepp Blatter, football's Richard Nixon

It's disappointing - if completely unsurprising - that the football World Cup won't be coming to Wembley and, err, Milton Keynes in 2018.

The choices of Russia and Qatar absolutely fit with both FIFA and the IOC, while marching under the banner 'keep politics out of sport', being addicted to the grand geopolitical gesture, whether it is good or bad for the game.

Oliver Kay of The Times tweets that

Sepp Blatter a step closer to fulfilling his Nobel Peace Prize dream by taking World Cup to Russia and Middle East. I'm serious

So, almost certainly, is Sepp.

The Nobel committee have done pretty well with this year's slightly controversial award to Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.

I am less convinced that giving a World Cup to Vladimir Putin counts on quite the same scale of personal sacrifice in he name of peace.

But this is no time for sour grapes.

Win or lose, nobody should let the result change their mind about Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA. So here are a couple of Sepp snippets from my piece just ahead of Blatter's re-election as FIFA president back in 2002.

You have to admire Blatter's chutzpah. The scale and persistence of the allegations of, at best, gross mismanagement and, at worst, outright corruption would get a lesser man down. Yet Blatter is unmoved. He has an explanation for everything. Accused of bribing African referee Lucien Bouchardeau to smear rivals, the Fifa President told a friendly Swiss newspaper that he was guilty only of charity: "He said to me, with tears in his eyes, that he was a poor devil and had nothing left. So I gave him $25,000 of my own money. I'm too good a person". He has told his Secretary-General Michael Zen-Ruffinen, whose detailed dossier is now in the hands of the Swiss police, to "stop playing detective"


While Fifa delegates are likely to vote for business as usual on Wednesday, Blatter's critics believe the bad guys must lose in the end. UEFA president Lennart Johannsson says that "After Watergate, Nixon was still voted in as president before people knew all the facts. But the allegations never went away and he eventually had to go". But this happy scenario requires somebody to perform the checks and balances - to blow the whistle on football's self-preserving elite.

So the Nobel committee may want to spark a massive debate about whether or not a Blatter Nobel would be more damaging to their own reputation than the Kissinger award, which famously killed political satire in 1973.

And, despite his well-earned reputation for realpolitik, Kissinger is not completely unshockable. When Kissinger saw FIFA close up during the 1980s, he said it made him "nostalgic for the Middle East".

Perhaps it is time for a pre-emptive anti-corruption campaign against a Sepp Blatter Nobel Prize. Anyone who starts one will have my support.

My Foreign Policy Centre pamphlet 'Democratising Global Sport', published back in 2000, making constructive proposals for sporting governance, is probably not available from the FIFA bookshop.


13eastie said...

Yesterday's result was the predictable outcome of an epic failure on the part of the BBC to root out corruption at FIFA.

It was seemingly welcomed only by Ed Miliband's staff.

An 'expose', which revealed no information that was in any way current, and which was a disgraceful example of editorial political bias, has given the tournament to Russia and Qatar.

Learjet sails will doubtless be booming.

We should lament the abuse of press freedom by the BBC while being relieved that such transgressions are not met with an FSB 'hit'.

Both the winning bids have rewarded human rights nightmares.

Russian domestic football is an exercise in weekly racism.

The stadia in Qatar have been touted as being exportable to the developing world, conveniently sweeping under the carpet the fact that major construction projects in the Middle East are universally resourced with slave labour imported form the sub-continent and the horn of Africa.

The last finals in South Africa were a disgrace: empty arenas; trade-union blackmail; economic gentrification; (and the vuvuvzela).

FIFA is a contemptible anachronism of which we ought to rid ourselves ASAP.

ringer37 said...

Not surprised Qatar won the bid. Money talks. And they have so freakin much of it. The bitter side of me hopes their air conditioning breaks in the stadiums in the 120 F heat; hate to have to answer for that!