Rod Liddle

Football’s elite deserve the foulness of Fifa

The countries that can actually play the game didn’t vote for Sepp Blatter, but that didn’t mean they behaved much better

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

My favourite moment in the crisis engulfing football’s governing body, Fifa, came with the intervention of a man called Manuel Nascimento Lopes. Manuel is the Fifa delegate from Guinea-Bissau, an African country which occupies 130th place in the Fifa world rankings but which, far more importantly in this context, punches well above its weight when it comes to institutionalised corruption. Thirteenth in the world, according to the organisation Transparency International — not a bad showing for a smallish sub-Saharan rathole which has been almost permanently engulfed in civil war since the Portuguese got the hell out.

Manuel suggested that to vote against Sepp Blatter remaining as boss of Fifa would be ‘blasphemy’ and added the following observation: ‘If you point three fingers at someone, there is always one you point at yourself.’ I find this a difficult concept to fathom. Why would you point three fingers at anyone? Wouldn’t just one do? And how come one of those fingers is actually pointing at you — isn’t that physically impossible, unless it has been broken by some government thug in a Bissau torture chamber (of which there are plenty, according to Amnesty International)? As for ‘blasphemy’, well, it would not be blasphemous for Manuel and his African brethren to have voted against the hilariously appalling Sepp Blatter. They would instead be ‘pissing on their chips’, to use a phrase which I believe originated in Port Talbot.

Fifa, under Blatter, poured an awful lot of money into the pockets of African delegates, much as it has done with the delegates from the equally corrupt — and in a footballing sense, similarly useless Concacaf nations (that’s North and Central America and the Caribbean). Add to those two another continent which is spectacularly bad at football, but often quite good at corruption, Asia, and you can see how Sepp got his votes. Only one country from the whole of Asia, Concacaf and Africa ranks in the Fifa top 20 for football, and that’s the over-rated Costa Rica. No country from any of these blocs has ever won a World Cup, or is ever likely to. But together, under Blatter’s voting system, they called the tune, no matter what the two blocs who are very good at football — South America and Europe — might want. These last two agglomerations currently provide 19 of the 20 top Fifa footballing countries and have produced every single World Cup-winning nation. And yet they effectively have no say at all in the running of the game. They are outvoted by the likes of Lopes, with his strange three-fingers allusion and room-temperature IQ. (It is true, incidentally, that the BBC, among others, tell us that Africa is absolutely brilliant at football and the coming power. But this is the usual bien pensant wishful thinking which afflicts the Beeb whenever it deals with Africa, be the subject economic growth, human rights or genocide. The continent is arguably poorer at football now than it was a quarter of a century ago.)

So, Sepp wins his vote but resigns a few days later, just as the police are nosing around closer and closer to his throne. Maybe he was the right man, though. There is a very good case for saying that football gets the administration it richly deserves. At the top level the game is foul, corrupt, greedy and amoral — in Europe every bit as much as in Africa or Haiti. The players, in the main, show not a shred of loyalty or commitment to either their clubs or their national teams. They and their horrible, grasping agents are motivated by one thing alone — ever more obscene amounts of money. The gulf between the players and the supporters is now unbridgeable; the players are a different species, and act that way. Pampered, misogynistic, foul-spirited and — it has to be said, overvalued and over-adored.

A formidable proportion of our own clubs are run by egomaniacs and others who have no interest in the traditional supporters. Our football authorities level a ‘fit and proper’ test on prospective owners. To judge by the way that test seems to be applied, the Kray twins, Torquemada, Al Capone and Adolf Hitler would have passed with flying colours. Only the money matters, regardless of how it was ‘earned’ or to where it will shortly disappear.

Only the money matters. The Football Association and the Premier League will rail against Fifa’s manifest and documented corruption, but neither organisation will do anything meaningful about it. The Premier League’s sole worry about the 2022 World Cup being held in a homophobic slave-state — Qatar — was that a winter World Cup would disrupt the domestic programme and thus have an impact upon the dosh they get. Meanwhile, Greg Dyke, chairman of the FA, has said that nothing would be gained by England simply pulling out of the World Cup, by itself. Except, Greg — might it not be the right thing to do? You know, on a point of principle — that we shouldn’t be a party to an organisation in which a whole bunch of the senior officials are out on bail and which has been serially corrupt for at least two decades?

The supporters all the while get short shrift. Ludicrous charges for their weekly tickets and treated, when they arrive at the ground, with grave suspicion and opprobrium; lectured about the rude songs they sing, forced to watch games at inconvenient times in order to keep the TV companies happy, smacked around by the old bill from time to time with impunity, disenfranchised and alienated from the players on the field. All of this stuff is one reason I wasn’t too cut up about my own club being relegated this season. The lower you go — the further away from Manuel and Fifa and the Premier League and carpeted ‘stadia’ and Ronaldo and Messi et al — the pleasanter experience it is to watch football. You can even kid yourself you’re not part of the same repulsive circus.

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Show comments
  • Pacificweather

    A good humorous article. Don’t keep us waiting so long in future.

  • FrankS2

    When England’s bid to host the World Cup failed, wasn’t there an outbreak of grumbling among English football fans blaming the loss on a British investigation into Fifa corruption? Seems Doing the Right Thing was the wrong thing to do if it meant upsetting Fifa.

    • Dominic Stockford

      You’re right. Though may of us do still want out.

  • AJH1968

    I prefer Rugby (thank God!); a thugs game played by gentlemen.

    • explain that

      What’s this yogurt weaving bull here got to do with this article, and where on earth have all he sensible comments made by sensible people gone? If I wanted to read the same article twice I’d rather go to the teletubbies webshite, FFS.

      • AJH1968

        You poor sod!

  • Baron

    One couldn’t wish for better slicing of it, Rod, well done.

    There’s no transparency, no accountability, the charitable status enables the set-ups, both on the national and international level, to do what they wish, and the individuals within them seldom wish anything but their own enrichment. Unless that changes the current onslaught will results in just a simple swap of the old corrupts for a set of new ones.

  • Jugurtha

    Too right. Pull out. It’s our game isn’t it? We’ll have it back now, thanks all the same. We’re so pleased you came but the party’s over. Football’s coming home etc.
    I miss fat alcoholics with sports shops and perms because, strangely enough, the game was more entertaining. In retrospect, they were crap players in comparison with now but the whole spectacle was more absorbing then…it felt like it mattered.

  • Dan

    Spot on Rod, our game has been decimated, plasticised, pimped and painted, and now it resembles nothing of what we all fell in love with, a bit like being wooed by Halle Berry, get married to the girl of your dreams, she lets herself go, and ends up like Diane Abbott. I fell out of love with the game a long time ago, the contempt that the average supporter is subjected to is disgraceful, by clubs, the police, and the TV companies, but nothing will change whilst the wonga keeps rolling in

  • Sean Grainger

    Mr L I hate to point this out because their home games muck up my drinking in The White Horse but Chelsea is still really quite a famly affair – I think that’s the correct spelling round that way. And unlike poor old Balotelli the squad isn’t very prima donnaish. Of course you have “two yachts” Abbo in control but hey …

    • Harry Pond

      He has five yachts at the latest count.

  • Idowu Omoyele

    The admission by the chief executive of the Football Association of
    Ireland John Delaney that the FAI received a previously undisclosed
    payment (5m euros) from Fifa to stave off legal proceedings following
    the unpunished handball by Thierry Henry in a 2010 World Cup qualifying
    play-off which enabled France to participate in the event proper in
    South Africa at the Republic of Ireland’s expense is noteworthy. It
    ought to abolish a disingenuous, delusional tendency among some (NOT
    all) footballing and other peoples in western Europe and North America
    to see themselves as holier-than-thou, as morally superior to their
    counterparts in such other parts of the world as Africa, Asia, South
    America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

    It will be irresponsible, of course, to deny that rampant corruption
    occurs in these parts. The point is that we will be hard-pressed to find
    any part of world football not contaminated by corruption. The solution
    is that everyone engaged or involved in football from grassroots to
    elite, top-level should personally and collectively endeavour to get rid
    of this scourge of mass corruption by being decidedly honest, open,
    forthright and truthful in their dealings with one another – both in
    private and in public.

    It will be amusing, were the implications arising from the corruption
    scandal currently rocking Fifa not so serious, to learn that a British
    Prime Minister (David Cameron), a celebrity former footballer (David
    Beckham) and a royal heir to the English throne (Prince William) have
    taken potshots at Fifa, given that, in the aftermath of a 2010 BBC
    Panorama documentary investigating corruption within world football’s
    governing body, they had no qualms about glad-handing Fifa officials at
    the organization’s headquarters in Zurich in England’s failed bid to secure hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup.

    Double standards, hypocrisy and self-righteousness are some of the
    other vices we need to be wary of even as we are all too eager to sit in
    judgement over others. All the same, anyone found guilty of corruption
    in Fifa, from Sepp Blatter to the most junior employee, should be prepared to face the consequences. That Blatter, like his Brazilian predecessor at Fifa’s helm Joao Havelange, has done much to improve football fortunes around the world is laudable but the end cannot be said to justify the means if corruption has had a walk-on part in this intriguing drama.

  • Ipsidixit

    Meanwhile, the football league has announced that it will operate positive discrimination to ensure that more African footballers reach the highest levels of management in British football.

    • Feminister

      How do you think all the white blokes got to be in charge? Merit?

      • The_Fell_guy

        Argh, so now football is news? Ha-Ha.

  • John Andrews

    Why not follow boxing and have several world cups?

  • CocklecarrotJ

    Bit harsh calling Costa Rica over rated when in the last tournament they topped a group consisting of Italy, Uruguay and England; then progressed to the Quarter Finals and only went out to Holland on penalties.

  • ant

    I suspect events will render this article utterly without merit. If, as is suspected FIFA votes have been traded for arms deals and trade agreements with the likes of France and Germany then all bets are off, so to speak.

  • Dominic Stockford

    They ain’t going to do the ‘right thing’. Time to watch non-league football. If we all went there and stopped wasting our time with the corrupt FA then maybe they might start to listen to sense, and pull out of FIFA.

  • Feminister

    Football is news?

    When is the world’s media schedule going to taken over by the latest fashion crisis?

    It’s what I pay my BBC licence fee and what I don’t buy a spectator subscription for.

    • The_Fell_guy

      Football is news. Important to at least a billion people who play and exercise with it, from kids who enjoy it and are inspired by it to others who simply watch it and discuss it. How is not news when the money funneled into it by so many is misused by those at the top?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Football is the major component of UK trash culture. Worthy of a top 10 ranking on your, “Emigrate, reasons to” list.
        Jack, Japan Alps

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Another nail in football’s coffin. I’m feeling rather good about this.