Fie, Foh, and Fum FIFA in the dumps

The victor and the vanquished… Sepp Blatter with Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (left) during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term after he polled 133 votes to Prince Ali’s 73. The 39-year-old challenger could have taken the contest to a potential second round, but he withdrew.-AP The victor and the vanquished… Sepp Blatter with Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (left) during the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term after he polled 133 votes to Prince Ali’s 73. The 39-year-old challenger could have taken the contest to a potential second round, but he withdrew.

All this depressing chicanery goes back to not just the 20-odd years the Americans are investigating, but to 1974 when the abominable Joao Havelange bribed his way to succeeding Stanley Rous as President of FIFA, writes Brian Glanville.

Well, what did we expect? Over the whole depressing proceedings, both in the United States, where the FBI inquest unearthed so scandalously much, and in Zurich, where despite ferocious pressure and criticism Sepp Blatter was predictably re-elected for a fifth abysmal term. Prince Ali of Jordan clearly felt it not worth the bother of enacting the re-run to which he was entitled after such a huge defeat — 133 to 73 votes pro-Blatter, which left the Swiss a mere seven short of the 2/3 majority.

The Africans and Asians all clung to their financial advantages. Huge sums of money, we know, go to those various countries and though allegedly it is badly needed for them to develop their football, more sceptical voices suggest that much of the money is creamed off by dishonest and greedy officials.

Before the election, we heard certain African leaders praising Blatter in almost messianic terms.

It was not even as if UEFA, the European body, with its uninspiring leader Michel Platini (though at least he asked Blatter to resign), suddenly and belatedly coming out as anti-Blatter, was wholly embraced by Europe. Russia, who in one dubious way or another have secured the 2018 World Cup, have every intention of keeping it, with Putin, who himself presides over what an American woman diplomat has described as a mafia country endemic with exploitation and cruel repression, striking a high moralistic attitude, condemning the Americans for intervening in matters which, he insists, do not concern them.

And indeed, you might think it quite an irony that the USA, a mighty international power but still very much a lesser soccer force, should be the country that has now so decisively put the cat among the pigeons. Platini may now have made the right noises but he has for long been a tarnished figure. Voting in his UEFA capacity for Qatar as a World Cup host, initially when the tournament was due to take place in the 50-degree centigrade of summer, then, deplorably going along with its transfer to the European winter, thus utterly betraying his European trust and subjecting its clubs’ season to appalling disruption.

I don’t believe Platini was bribed. Though the word is, and it hasn’t been denied, that he was heavily leaned on by the then France president, Sarkozy, who wanted Qatar’s mineral resources.

Platini, it is reported, doesn’t really want to withdraw UEFA’s countries from the World Cup 2022 if he can avoid it. But at least under evident pressure from many of his members, he is contemplating a vote on succession.

Russia’s shocking human rights record should have ensured that it never got close to a World Cup, but as the Americans have so crucially shown us, money talks and there is little doubt in this instance that a great deal of it has changed hands. Much of it apparently — and it has been denied — finding its way to Franz Beckenbauer. The more one contemplates the present situation, the more it seems that the only way of getting rid of Blatter is for the Americans to charge him with offences as well. So far he has maintained his ‘not me, gov’ stance but how long can it last?

And how evident his culpability was over his relations with the deplorable Trinidadian Jack Warner. Seen dancing happily at a Trinidad function in photographs on the day of the voting, having just been let out of jail on the grounds of a supposed illness.

Warner has been indicted by the Americans on a multiplicity of charges, and even his two sons have now agreed to provide testimony. The Americans have discovered that a sum of $10m was transmitted to him through FIFA (seemingly at the behest of the late Argentine football panjandrum Gondona) on behalf of the South African claim to the 2010 World Cup. But surely, the repellent correspondence between Warner and Blatter, sent out by Andrew Jennings’ exemplary investigative book Foul! tells us all we need to know about Blatter’s self-proclaimed integrity. Blatter’s messages to Warner, whose CONCACAF votes he badly needed, were almost affectionate. It was all too clear that Warner could make almost any request he likes successfully and Blatter would pay for it.

Meanwhile, the corpulent Chuck Blazer, number two in CONCACAF to Warner, who has made so much illicit money out of his role that he actually has two expensive apartments in New York — one of which he supposedly keeps for his cats — has turned state’s evidence. Wearing a wire and feeding the results of what it recorded of CONCACAF meetings to the American investigators. He still is likely to receive a substantial prison sentence though, at the moment, he is in hospital, seriously ill with pneumonia, and it remains to be seen whether he will recover.

It is as revolting as ever to think that the English bidders for the 2018 World Cup, who eventually didn’t even get the one vote promised them by Warner, enabled him free access to Prime Minister David Cameron in 10 Downing Street. Both Cameron and Prince William, later infuriated by the subsequent knowledge, courting him in Zurich before the vote took place.

But historically, all this depressing chicanery goes back to not just the 20-odd years the Americans are investigating, but to 1974 when the abominable Joao Havelange bribed his way to succeeding Stanley Rous as President of FIFA. The fact that he kept the position until 1998 for all his malfeasance tells you more than you need to know about the passivity of all the members of FIFA by no means accepting the Europeans who should have known much better. Quite recently, Havelange, having been found guilty of taking bribes when President from the ISL communications company, was deprived of his honorary Presidency of FIFA. He, in his late 90s, must be laughing amidst his ill-gotten gains back in Brazil.